Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas four strokes behind leader Martin Flores
OAKVILLE — Mackenzie Hughes is within striking distance to start the weekend at the Canadian Open.
The 26-year-old from Dundas fought through heavy wind to fire a 3-under 69 at Glen Abbey Golf Club Friday, which leaves him four strokes shy of leader Martin Flores at the end of two rounds. He starts Saturday at 8-under. Hughes, who made the cut for the first time in three tries at the tournament, said he’s feeling good about where he stands to start Round 3. “Four back is not many shots over the course of two days. Now, obviously, I’m going to need to be that much better, because the guys in front of me are going to keep going low. But it’s nice to have a chance.”
Of the field’s 17 Canadians, just two — Hughes and Graham DeLaet, who are knotted in a 14-way tie for 14th place — are still standing. A win for either would be historic.
It’s been 63 years since a homegrown player won the national championship (British-born Pat Fletcher in 1954) and more than a century since a Canadian-born player won it (Carl Keffer in 1914).
After his round Friday — a 4under 68 — DeLaet said every Canuck is here to try and end the “Pat Fletcher curse.”
“We all want to hoist the trophy,” he added.
Hughes said it’s nice to have “GD in there” and not be “the Lone Ranger.”
“I wish there were 17 Canadians 8-under or better. It would have been really fun to get a bunch of guys in the mix.”
Hughes, the Highland Secondary School grad, started the round at 5-under and lost a stroke immediately with a bogey on the par-4 1st.
He rebounded with birdies on three of the next five holes before giving up two more strokes with back-to-back bogeys on 7 and 8.
The back nine, which Hughes went into dangerously close to the 4-under cut, was less of a rollercoaster. He drained a 17-foot putt for a birdie on the par-4 10th and followed it up with three more on 11, 13 and 17.
For Hughes, the key heading into the weekend is to level out those peaks and valleys and focus, which is easier said than done when hundreds of friends, family members and fans are out on the course screaming your name.
“I want to use the crowd, but I also need to kind of manage and not get too up and down,” he said — and the second half of his round was a good example. As for the front nine? “I was up with the birdies and then you make bogeys and you hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs,’ so hopefully I can kind of play a little steadier tomorrow and cut out some of those dropped shots,” he said. “All in all, it was a good day from start to finish. It happens on a day like today when it’s windy — you’re going to make some mistakes, so pretty pleased.”
Friday’s performance came on the heels of a strong first round in which Hughes sank six birdies and fired a 67 — two strokes off the lead and the top Canadian score.
He tees off with American Tag Ridings at 11:25 a.m. Saturday.
Mackenzie Hughes, of Dundas, continued his strong run on Friday at the RBC Canadian Open, where he finished at 8-under and in a tie for 14th.