Matter of time before Canadian Open dry spell ends

Mike Weir is one of two Canadians to come close to winning the Canadian Open in recent memory....

Mike Weir is one of two Canadians to come close to winning the Canadian Open in recent memory. (Greg Henkenhaf/QMI Agency/Files)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:05 PM ET

Every year when the Canadian Open nears, Pat Fletcher's name comes to the fore as the last Canadian to win our national championship.

After close calls by Mike Weir in 2004 and Adam Hadwin last year, the hunger of fans and organizers hasn't waned a bit with the 103rd Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club just three weeks away. Fletcher's victory at Vancouver's Point Grey in 1954 is the lone win by a Canadian since before the First World War and it was clear during a news conference Tuesday that many believe that has to change sometime soon.

"We all remember 2004, maybe not for Vijay (Singh's) victory, but for what Mike (Weir) almost did. And we look at last year for what Adam (Hadwin) did, almost did, at Shaughnessy," tournament director Bill Paul said. "Nothing would make us more proud than to have a Canadian stand on that 18th green on Sunday afternoon, hoisting this trophy as our national champion.

"So today, there's no doubt the depth of golf in Canada is far greater than what it ever was. We are strong and one day we know a Canadian will certainly hoist this trophy."

Hadwin, from Abbotsford, B.C., thrilled crowds last year in Vancouver when he finished fourth. While he's proud of his two consecutive Rivermead Cup titles as low Canadian at the 2010 and '11 tournaments, he says not being able to get it done Sunday with the crowd buzzing still stings.

"You could definitely feel the excitement building, especially after the birdie on 14 -- I don't think I've ever heard a roar like that. And to kind of walk through the crowd a little bit to get to the 15th tee, you could really feel it. Definitely it was kind of that nervous excitement. I tried to use it to fuel me coming in.

"Unfortunately I couldn't get any more birdies but it was an unbelievable feeling and hopefully I'm the Canadian that gets to feel that again, but if not, hopefully it's one of these local guys that get to feel that because it was really special for me."

The local guys he was speaking about are David Hearn, of Brantford, Ont., and Ontario Amateur champion Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont. Both grew up not far from Hamilton, which makes the tournament that much more special to them.

"It's close to home for me so it's going to be really exciting for me to kind of have a home game and play in front of a lot of local fans and family and friends," Hearn said. "The Canadian Open is an event that all Canadians look forward to and we do as well. It's our national championship and nothing would make us more proud than to have one of us win that tournament."

It's a definite possibility for Hearn, a 33-year-old PGA Tour veteran who has five top-25 finishes this season and sits 103rd in the FedExCup rankings with $585,355 in earnings. But for the 21-year-old Hughes, it's the stuff of dreams.

"I've been thinking about it since I holed my six-inch putt for the win last year at the Canadian Amateur," he said of stepping to the first tee on July 26. "It's going to be a whirlwind.

"I can't wait to get out here and play. Besides the Masters, this is the tournament I'd like to win most."

With the exposure he gained through his Canadian Open run last year, along with appearances in the U.S. Open and the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic, Frys.com Open and McGladrey Classic, many have pegged the 24-year-old Hadwin as the next big thing for Canadian golf. And while the 50th-ranked player on the Web.com (formerly Nationwide) Tour money list may well be, he says he's not the only player to watch.

"The progress that Canada has made in the past few years, as far as the depth of the talent, is huge," Hadwin said. "I've been saying this for a couple of years now. Just hold on, just give us a few years, we'll catch up.

"Matt Hill and Cory Renfrew were in a four-hole playoff last week at the Canadian Tour event at Fort McMurray. Obviously, we have David (Hearn) and Graham (DeLaet) playing well out on (the PGA) tour. We still have Stephen (Ames) and Mike (Weir). You've got Richard (Scott) finishing third on the Web.com Tour, he's 27th on the money list, Brad (Fritsch) is in the top 40. There's just a number of guys coming up now that there's going to be a lot more guys on (the PGA) tour and on the Web.com tour shortly. A lot of them will come off the Canadian Tour -- Roger Sloan, Nick Taylor, Matt Hill -- I could probably name you 5-10 guys that will be at least (on the Web.com tour) in the next couple of years.

"The talent is getting better."

DeLaet, just behind Hearn at 110th in the FedExCup standings with $554,670 in earnings and needing just a little more than $100,000 over the next nine events of his major medical exemption, says he has the Canadian Open circled on his calendar.

"I haven't played any majors, but (the Canadian Open) has a major feel for me and it's one of the most important events on our schedule," he said.

ON THE TEE

PGA Tour

Greenbrier Classic

The Greenbrier Resort, The Old White TPC (7,274 yards, par 70), White Sulphur Springs, WV.

A hot Tiger Woods is playing the tournament for the first time. Canadians in the field are Graham DeLaet, David Hearn and Stephen Ames.

LPGA Tour

U.S. Women's Open

Blackwolf Run, Championship Course (6,954 yards, par 72), Kohler, Wis.

Yani Tseng is coming off a missed cut. Canadians include Lorie Kane, Jisoo Keel and Isabelle Beisiegel


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