Low Canadian little consolation as ‘curse of Pat Fletcher’ lingers at Open

Mackenzie Hughes, one of two homebrews to make the midway cut at Glen Abbey, finished as the low Canadian at the Open.
Mackenzie Hughes, one of two homebrews to make the midway cut at Glen Abbey, finished as the low Canadian at the Open.  (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

They give out a trophy to the low Canadian at the RBC Canadian Open. But Canada’s best touring professionals haven’t always appreciated the spirit of the Rivermead Cup.

“Being low Canadian,” the late PGA Tour winner Dan Halldorson said back in 1994, “is like being the tallest midget.”

As politically incorrect as Halldorson’s statement surely was, his sentiment was understandable. His point wasn’t to disparage his compatriots or mock little people. His point was that he didn’t show up at the Canadian Open to beat his fellow Canadians. He showed up with the intention of beating everyone in the field. That’s the only way for a PGA Tour player, no matter his nationality, to reasonably approach any given week of golf.

Halldorson died in 2015, about 35 years after he won his only PGA Tour event. But his way of seeing the Rivermead Cup lives on.

“Consolation prize, I would say,” said Mackenzie Hughes, the tour rookie from Dundas, Ont., who was awarded the trophy after a domestic-best score of 10 under par for the tournament. “I wasn’t really thinking about (being low Canadian) today. I just wanted to climb up there as far as I could.

“It’s a nice honour for sure, and you know, I’m beating a lot of good players that came out of Canada this week. (But) I think if you asked (Graham DeLaet or David Hearn), I think we all wanted to win. So being low Canadian is great, but next year I’m coming back for more.”

It was a difficult tournament for most of Canada’s 17 entries here, 15 of whom missed the cut of four under par. DeLaet, the only other Canadian to play the weekend, shot 71 on Sunday to finish at eight under.

“The support we get as Canadians in this golf tournament is obviously great. But you want to be able to give them something to cheer about, and I wasn’t really able to do that this weekend,” DeLaet said. “We’ll be back again next year and hopefully somebody can get it done.”

A Canadian hasn’t gotten it done at the national championship since 1954, a drought that DeLaet dubbed “the curse of Pat Fletcher” on the weekend — named for the last homebred to win the tournament. Hughes was asked if he’s a believer in the so-called curse.

“”I don’t know if it’s real, but I just know it’s really hard to win a golf tournament, especially on the PGA Tour,” Hughes said. “The fact that we’re trying to win this one, and only one, in Canada every year — there’s a lot of things that have to go your way. I don’t want to call it a curse yet, but once I play in about 15 I’ll let you know.”

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