Macken­zie Hughes of Dun­das four strokes be­hind leader Mar­tin Flores

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - TERI PECOSKIE

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.

NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.

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