Chas­ing his Euro­pean Tour dream

Bri­tish Open hero Austin Con­nelly de­clines in­vi­ta­tion to Cana­dian Open

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY ADAM STAN­LEY

Austin Con­nelly had a chance to re­turn to Canada as some­what of a folk hero af­ter his tie for 14th at last week’s Bri­tish Open, but for now his pri­or­i­ties re­main across the At­lantic.

Con­nelly, who is try­ing lock up sta­tus on the Euro­pean Tour for next year, de­cided to de­cline an in­vi­ta­tion from Golf Canada to be part of the Cana­dian Open field this week.

In­stead of head­ing to Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont., Con­nelly will be in the field at the Porsche Euro­pean Open in Ham­burg, Ger­many, as he tries to lock up a place to play for 2018.

The Cana­dian Open would be noth­ing more than a one-off PGA Tour start for Con­nelly, though he said it was a tough choice.

“If I had fin­ished tied for sixth (or bet­ter) I would have been on that char­ter, be­cause I re­ally would have loved to be there,” Con­nelly said.

The 20-year-old was born in Irv­ing, Texas, but started play­ing golf at the Clare Golf and Coun­try Club in Comeauville, N.S., when he would visit his grand­par­ents in the sum­mer months. He’s still a mem­ber there.

Con­nelly, whose fa­ther, Bill, was born in Toronto, holds dual-ci­ti­zen­ship and has been a part of Golf Canada’s Na­tional Team in the past. He also rep­re­sented Canada at the Pan Amer­i­can Games in 2015.

Con­nelly was dis­ap­pointed to de­cline Golf Canada’s in­vite — he fin­ished tied for 79th at the 2015 Cana­dian Open — be­cause he said he feels the sup­port of Cana­dian fans wher­ever he goes.

“You just don’t get that (kind of sup­port) in other places,” he said. “Hon­estly they are the best fans in the world. It doesn’t mat­ter where I am. I’ve got so much sup­port in Nova Sco­tia and just so many close fam­ily mem­bers and friends. They’ve sup­ported me so much over the years. It’s nice to rep­re­sent them and try to make them proud.”

Golf Canada’s new CEO, Lau­rence Ap­ple­baum, said Con­nelly did his coun­try proud last week. He was “se­cretly hop­ing” Con­nelly would ac­cept the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­vi­ta­tion, but re­spected his de­ci­sion.

“It speaks to the depth of Cana­dian golf that there’s some­one not a lot of peo­ple know who can fin­ish tied for 14th at the Bri­tish Open,” said Ap­ple­baum. “It was a spec­tac­u­lar re­sult, and a com­ing of age mo­ment for him. This kid showed com­po­sure and ex­cel­lence in one of the tough­est tests of golf.”

Con­nelly’s Texas con­nec­tions are strong as well. He’s good friends with fel­low Texan Jor­dan Spi­eth, who went on to win the Bri­tish Open on Sun­day.

Con­nelly and Spi­eth played a prac­tice round to­gether last week. Con­nelly said he had a feel­ing Spi­eth was go­ing to win, and Spi­eth told re­porters he thinks Con­nelly has a “killer in­stinct.”

“He’s a guy that’s not afraid of the mo­ment, as you can tell,” Spi­eth said. “And it will only be a mat­ter of time be­fore he breaks through.”

Con­nelly said hear­ing those words just prove what kind of guy Spi­eth is.

“It’s ob­vi­ously nice to hear those kinds of words come from him. He’s a good friend, a re­ally nice guy, and it gives you con­fi­dence mov­ing for­ward,” Con­nelly said. “He’s a great am­bas­sador and a great per­son to learn from. It’s nice to have him around and be able to watch and learn.”

AP PHOTO

Canada’s Austin Con­nelly plays off the fifth tee dur­ing the fi­nal round of the Bri­tish Open Golf Cham­pi­onship, at Royal Birk­dale, Southport, Eng­land, Sun­day.

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