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Hill Goes Pro, Taylor Awaits U.S. Am; Rumors of CanOpen Field

Brights Grove's Matt Hill will turn pro and try his luck on the PGA Tour starting next week.

Interesting to hear the news that Matt Hill will make his debut as a professional next week at Muirfield for Jack Nicklaus’ tournament.  According to Henry Brunton, coach of Golf Canada’s men’s national team, Hill made the decision to turn pro once he failed to make the NCAA championships, which he won last year. He missed the individual berth by a single shot, therefore leading to the decision to turn pro and take the exemption into the Memorial.

John Herbert of the London Free Press wrote about Hill’s decision a few weeks ago.

Hill has made the decision to turn pro at an odd stage in his college career. Unlike 2009, Hill didn’t dominate anything in his third year at North Carolina State, though he did win once. Brunton says he’s been focused on turning pro all year, to the point where it distracted from his golf game. Over the course of the season he slipped to 54 in the world amateur ranking, with his spot as the second-best Canadian amateur being usurped by Eugene Wong, who is now ranked #20 in the world (so much for that discussion about lack of Canadian talent…)

How hard is it to make the jump to the PGA Tour straight from NCAA golf? Pretty damned hard according to Henry Brunton’s CPGA Master Thesis:

In the past 10 years (1995- 2006), 7 players have jumped directly from the NCAA ranks to the PGA Tour – Tiger Woods, Ryan Moore, JB Holmes, Jeff Overton, Anthony Kim, Matt Kuchar, and Matt Davidson.

All this means is that Hill will have a tough challenge ahead of himself. Unlike Nick Taylor, Hill hasn’t demonstrated he can take his dominance to the PGA Tour. And it is a huge jump from college golf to the big time. On the other hand, those who know his game better than I say Hill has all the tools — long off the tee, great attitude, great short game.

Of course, on the other hand there’s B.C.’s Nick Taylor, who decided to remain as am amateur for his senior year of school at the University of Washington and is currently ranked second among all amateurs. He also just won the Ben Hogan Award, the top prize in U.S. college golf. Taylor told me earlier this year that he’ll stay amateur until after the U.S. Am:

“I think this summer winning the U.S. Am would be the number one goal. It would be cool and special to do it at Chambers Bay with my family watching. It would be awesome to win it and that’s been a goal for me for a long time. Hopefully I can be competitive there,” Taylor says.

Taylor is also very realistic about his chances of playing his way onto the PGA Tour:

“Only a couple of guys have done it. It isn’t realistic, but I’m confident I could do it. It depends on how many starts I’ll get. But a lot of things would have to go right – you’d have to get some breaks. I’d just like to get some exemptions to prepare me for Q-school.”

Will either of them make it? Hard to say. Both will get exemptions into the RBC Canadian Open (as should Eugene Wong), and Hill has been offered a spot at the AT&T event. It’ll come down to fall events and whether either can finish high enough to earn 125th money and gain access to the tour. It is a tough road and one rarely accomplished by anyone not named Tiger. Even Rickie Fowler failed to pull it off last year.

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No names are being disclosed — at least not yet — but a source close to the RBC Canadian Open told me the field is looking rock solid, likely the best in recent years. I’d expect some of the names will come out on Tuesday when Mike Weir and Nathan Green appear at St. George’s for the media day for the Canadian Open. Expect an update Tuesday afternoon.

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Jeff Lancaster

Jeff Lancaster is the Publisher of CanadianGolfer.com.

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