Canuck golfers make their marks

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

If we can divert our attention from the tawdry and salacious headlines from the top level of golf in what is supposed to be a season of goodwill, the story of the year in Canadian golf didn't take place on the PGA or LPGA Tours, but will affect this country's contingent on those circuits for years.

Actually, the story of the year isn't just one story, but several, all contributing to the common theme of developing players who arrive in time to offer hope in golf at the 2016 Olympics and swell the number of Canadians on the PGA and LPGA Tours.

That number already has doubled as Samantha Richdale of Kelowna, B.C., and Montreal's Lisa Meldrum join Alena Sharp and Lorie Kane on the LPGA Tour. Meanwhile, Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., and Chris Baryla of Vernon, B.C., will tee it up with Mike Weir and Stephen Ames on the men's tour.

It was a year in which Canadians accounted for four victories on the Duramed Futures Tour, including two by Richdale, who finished fourth on that circuit's money list to get her LPGA card, and one by Meldrum, who got hers by tying for fifth at Q-School.

Veteran Angela Buzminski, the other winner, will play with conditional status, but with a lack of LPGA events, likely will spend most of her time on the Futures Tour along with Danielle Mills of Pointe Claire, Que., who finished second at the Futures Tour Q-School.

The men's side also saw a couple of breakthrough seasons that resulted in the elevation of two Canadians led by DeLaet, who barnstormed with a couple of Canadian Tour wins, won the Order of Merit, won in South Africa, among several other impressive finishes there, before tying for eighth at Q-School.

The turning point for Baryla, who had been plagued by back problems, came at the RBC Canadian Open where he tied for eighth to tie Ames as top Canadian before his first Nationwide Tour win that shot him into the top 25 on the money list. Those players get their cards.

There are sure to be challenges ahead for these four, but even if one or two stumble in their rookie years, the homegrown talent pool is getting deeper, a nice gift for fans this holiday season after years of concern about the lack of Canadians on tour.

There were more who came close at Q-School, including Montreal's Julien Trudeau, who just missed the top 25 who got their cards, while Peterborough's Ted Brown and Edmonton's Barrett Jarosch each showed well. Adrienne White of Red Deer, Alta., also just missed getting her LPGA card.

With familiar names such as Jon Mills of Oshawa and David Hearn of Brantford still knocking on and Calgary's Dustin Risdon at times showing he's ready, the immediate future is promising, but it doesn't end there.

The amateurs were making a lot of noise with Matt Hill of Bright's Grove winning the NCAA title and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., finishing as low amateur at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. Taylor and Hill were 1-2 in world amateur rankings at one point.

BIG YEAR FOR KIRBY

On the women's side, Jennifer Kirby of Paris won the Ontario amateur and junior titles in Ontario and did the same at the national level, among other accomplishments. Don't forget Cam Burke of New Hamburg, winning his second consecutive Canadian Amateur title.

With everything that went on this year on the development circuits and in amateur golf, Canadians concerned with the number of homebrews on the major tours may want to look beyond the big leagues for entertainment. Being major-league fans means expanding their focus and seeing who is coming.

The ones who are on their way have offered a message of good cheer for Canadians, especially compared to the pre-holiday headlines.


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