Standing on the 5th tee at Scarboro G&CC, I reach down and push the button on a water jug. Nothing comes out. Nothing to drink and no water to wet my towel. This isn’t the Canadian Open, but my loop, Canadian pro Mike Mezei from Alberta probably doesn’t recognize he’ll have a muddy ball the next time he flips it to me because of my dry towel. I suspect it wouldn’t bother him anyway.
I’ve been spoiled. I’m used to the media tent at PGA Tour events. Catering. Air conditioning.Inside the ropes badges. Media conferences that are transcribed.
Instead I’m 10 minutes from my home (my Toronto digs, which are only mine for another week or so after being sold) looping for Mezei, a affable Canadian pro with his own unique swing who is trying to relocate his game after a frustrating year of missing the cut by a missed putt or two on the Canadian Tour. It is a change of pace for me, that’s for sure.
I’ve actually written more about the Canadian Tour over the last 12 months than I did in the previous five or six years. That started with a story I began chasing almost a year ago about the struggles the tour was facing after some significant financial shortfalls. It concluded with a Golf World story (for the life of me I can’t find a link) that broke the news that the tour was strapped for cash and talking to the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour deal would be announced a month later, and is still a work in progress. There was also a Global Golf Post column on where the deal stands (that was written a few months ago) and this week I’ll craft a column for Sympatico Sports on what I learned while caddying for a pro for the first time in a decade. The PGA Tour/CanTour deal, for what it is worth, is still a work in progress. Apparently the tour needs to line up eight events to make it go — and that’s not a certainty.
The Canadian Tour seems a million miles removed from the world of private jets and courtesy cars of the PGA Tour, but really the chasm isn’t that big. Yes, while carrying Mezei’s tour bag today (which wasn’t ridiculously heavy though Mezei promised to lighten it by smacking a few old balls onto the range and didn’t follow through), I was basically one of only a few caddies I saw. Many of the pros carried or pulled their own bags through the round. Those bags often had the image of their university on the side. Some had bags representing the equipment they played, but that was infrequent. But you can make it from these humble fairways to the PGA Tour — just ask Mike Weir, Steve Stricker, Spencer Levin or dozens of others who have made the jump.
Regardless the practice round felt a lot like a casual round among buddies, though one of the buddies in our group melted the ball and we started on the 8th hole. So let’s just say on a passing glance it might have appeared like a typical round — but it really wasn’t. In this case I was looping for Mezei, once one of Canada’s top amateurs, now a pro who might be mistaken for Lucas Glover and continues to chase his dream with plans to head to both European and PGA Tour school this fall. He’s not a big hitter, but he makes a lot of deuces (a friend claims he may be the all-time leader on the Canadian Tour in twos on threes, though I doubt they keep track of those stats). He hit it well a good part of our round and made a couple of kick-ins, so who knows how we’ll do. Mezei has played well at Scarboro during the CanTour’s international team matches in the past and it strikes me that it is a course that catches his imagination.
Our playing partners were interesting.
“Ever heard of Love in the Wild?” Mezei asked a couple of holes into our round.
Nope. Notta. Is that a hunting program on the Outdoor Life network?
My ignorance, apparently, is why I’d never heard of Steele DeWald. Yep, that’s his real name — Steele — making him perfect to appear on a reality program called “Love in the wild” that I’d never even heard mention of. Apparently he did well. As a golfer he hit some good shots and some questionable ones. He was friendly and wanted to talk about social media and seemed intrigued that I wrote about golf. He asked some questions, and I answered most of them. His shirt came untucked often (not sure what to make of that — perhaps he was really going after his shots), and his round got better after he decided to hit push/hooks off the tee.
Our third was Steve Saunders, a polite kid from New Mexico who absolutely crushed the ball. How far did he crush it? The opening hole on the course was playing close to 600 yards and Saunders hit a driver and an iron pin high. Impressive. He hasn’t played much on the Canadian Tour this year — last week was his first event — but he did have two Top 10 finishes last year.
“I don’t understand how guys who hit it that far aren’t on the PGA Tour,” Mezei said when we discussed the big hitters on tour. Turns out you still have to roll the ball into the hole, and I didn’t see Saunders make that many putts.
After the round I hung around the putting green while Mezei — who knows everyone — joked and chatted with those passing by. It was like a who’s who of Canadian golf. Stuart Anderson, who pledged earlier this year on Twitter never to speak to me again, held true to form, though I don’t think he actually knew who I was with a big bag on my shoulder and my hat pulled down low and shades over my eyes. Matt Hill chatted with me about his year. Pretty much everyone was friendly.
As we went to break for lunch Worden Teasdale, a past president of the RCGA, stopped to talk to Mezei. They chatted about great golf — Mezei loves courses like Pine Valley and Muirfield, something we have in common. As Teasdale got ready to leave he asked Mezei how the year had gone. Mezei admitted it wasn’t what he’d hoped for.
“I’ve been watching and you’re better than that,” Teasdale. “I know you are.”
We’ll see if Mezei recognizes that tomorrow when we tip it up at 1:20.