For hometown Hughes, a lot of pressure
THE CANADIAN OPEN
Fans calling your name, familiar faces in the crowd and the opportunity to make Canadian history. Those are the upsides of playing at home. But they come with heightened expectations and an unusual amount of pressure.
Those are the downsides.
Mackenzie Hughes experienced both at this year’s Canadian Open in Oakville, which is the only spot the PGA Tour stops in this country. It also happens to be a 30-minute drive from the Dundas native’s childhood home.
“It’s great and it can also be tough,” he said after firing a 4-under 68 in the final round Sunday.
“That expectation and that hope to play well for everybody and you want to get those crowds going. I let them down yesterday. I let myself down.”
Hughes, a Highland Secondary grad, was in the hunt after two rounds at Glen Abbey Golf Club. Then, on Saturday, a few errant drives and some blown putts left him 11 strokes out of the lead and, for all intents and purposes, out of contention.
“I just didn’t quite have it,” he said. “It was frustrating because I knew I wanted to do well and I felt like I was primed for a good day, but it didn’t happen.”
He rebounded, leapfrogging fellow Canadian Graham DeLaet to finish at 10-under Sunday and win the Rivermead Cup, which is awarded to the low Canadian score. It was a consolation prize, he said — a nice honour, “but next year I’m coming back for more.”
Unlike DeLaet, who’s from small town Saskatchewan, Hughes will probably always have to contend for the national championship in his own backyard — whether it’s at Glen Abbey or elsewhere.
On the weekend, Golf Canada confirmed the 2018 Canadian Open is returning to Oakville, where course owner ClubLink is making plans to develop the course. Golf Canada, meanwhile, is looking for a permanent home for the tournament and CEO Laurence Applebaum said it’s important that it be in the “central core of the GTA.”
Knowing that, is there anything Hughes will do differently the next time around?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m making time for family, but it’s also try to do business here and try to get my job done. It’s hard. You want to do it all, but if you do it all you’re going to be average at everything.
“I’m trying to win a golf tournament and it’s tough if you spread yourself too thin. I’ll probably do the same, and I’m sure as I get more experience doing this, I’ll learn the ins and outs even better. But I think I did a pretty good job,” he added.
If anyone understands the pressure Hughes is under, it’s David Hearn.
In 2015, the Brantford native was on track to become the first Canadian to win a national championship since Pat Fletcher in 1954 when he missed a handful of birdie putts in his final round at Glen Abbey. He ended up losing to Jason Day by two strokes.
“I think every Canadian wants to see it so bad and we want to do it so bad that it does make it hard,” he said at the time. He failed to make the cut this year.
DeLaet echoed Hearn’s comments Friday, saying: “We’re all here to try to get the curse, the Pat Fletcher curse. … We all want to hoist the trophy.”
Hughes’s take, though, is that it’s hard to win on the Tour, period, and with just a single event in Canada, a lot of things have to go your way in order to have success.
“I’d be lying if I said it was a normal week,” Hughes said. “It’s not,” he added. Next up for Hughes is the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. It’s a 30-minute drive to Kent State University — the 26-year-old alumnus’s second home.
Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela celebrates his win at the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday.
Charley Hoffman of the United States plays his shot out of the bunker on the ninth hole in the final round on Sunday at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville.
Robert Garrigus of the U.S. celebrates after sinking a putt on the 18th hole.
Ian Poulter reacts after making par on the 16th hole Sunday.