For home­town Hughes, a lot of pres­sure

THE CANA­DIAN OPEN

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - TERI PECOSKIE OAKVILLE —

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.

NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Jhonat­tan Ve­gas of Venezuela cel­e­brates his win at the RBC Cana­dian Open on Sun­day.

VAUGHN RI­D­LEY, GETTY IM­AGES

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.

MI­NAS PANA­GIO­TAKIS, GETTY IM­AGES

Robert Gar­ri­gus of the U.S. cel­e­brates af­ter sink­ing a putt on the 18th hole.

FRANK GUNN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ian Poul­ter re­acts af­ter mak­ing par on the 16th hole Sun­day.

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