Hamilton is still wet. Drenched by rain for a couple of days before the start of the Canadian Open and built on heavy soil, Hamilton Golf & CC is still holding water. It is downright muddy in places. In fact, my least favourite thing about professional golf courses is that after a period of time, wet areas of the courses that have had hundreds of people walking through start to smell like urine. It isn’t pleasant.
On this day my task was to follow Cambridge, Ont.’s Victor Ciesielski, an amateur who Monday qualified into the event. He shot 2-under today and was great fun in the scrum afterwards. Among his revelations was:
* that being an avid golfer as a teen kept him from “getting a decent girlfriend.” He would later say the attractive young lady with him now fits that role nicely.
* that he has never really had a coach, though he does occasionally get help from Galt Country Club’s talented Dave Smallwood.
* that he left his college and golf scholarship in Virginia for “personal reasons.” His mom would later tell me he was homesick, missed her cooking and was unhappy with the coach tinkering with his swing.
* that he shot 61 recently at Galt to break Ian Leggatt’s longstanding course record.
All in all, I hope the kid (he’s 21) shoots the lights out today. He was low Canadian in a field that included Mike Weir and Stephen Ames. He was also great fun to speak with.
I also had a chance to talk at some length with Mark O’Meara. He turns 50 in January, so this is likely his last turn at the Canadian Open, an event he has won in the past. O’Meara is a classy guy, with articulate interesting things to say. He’ll be part of an upcoming feature I’m writing for the newspaper.
And yes, with the course wet, scores on day one rivaled those shot over all four days in 2003. Jim Furyk set the course competitive record with a 63, one off the Canadian Open record shot by Greg Norman and Andy Bean, Leonard Thompson and Andy Bean. Furyk comes across as very dour on the golf course (I saw him blow off numerous young autograph seekers on Wednesday for no apparent reason), but is very affable in the media tent.
* I spent a good two hours walking on the back nine watching my friend Alan McLean (from London, Ont.) play in his first PGA Tour event. He scrambled well, made a couple of nice birdies and if he hadn’t three putted the final green, would have come in with a respectable round of even par. Instead he’s 1-over and has his work cut out for him on Friday.
* Lots of talk around the course today about Ames’ comments on the upcoming Canadian Open. As Bob Weeks points out on his blog today, Ames called Angus Glen and Glen Abbey “shitty,” but this was changed to “shoddy” on the official transcripts which can be found here.
* Oh, and for those readers that asked, I shot 80 on the number in Wednesday’s pro-am. I actually wasn’t nervous at all throughout the round, a factor that was helped by our playing partner Charles Warren. The course was surely more difficult than those I typically play, especially the rough. On the first hole, for example, I drew my TaylorMade Rescue into the rough (this was the 10th hole). Though I only had 116 yards to the flag, I actually couldn’t see the ball and only advanced it five yards. The next shot ended up on the green. That wasn’t always the case (on our final hole I hit a 9-iron approach to six feet out of the rough), but it was very tough. However, the greens were slower and soft, as we saw today.