No Canadians advance at U.S. Open qualifier held in Ontario

Sepp Straka laughs before hitting from the 11th tee of the Silverado Resort North Course during the first round of the Safeway Open. (Eric Risberg/AP)

MILTON, Ont. — The first-ever U.S. Open qualifier on Canadian soil didn’t send any Canadians to the third major of the men’s golf season. But it was still a tremendous boon for golf in Canada.

Americans Tom Hoge and Sepp Straka tied for first at 5-under par at the 37-player, two-round tournament at RattleSnake Point Golf Club on Monday, claiming two of the four available spots at the U.S. Open. A playoff between Nick Lashley, Alex Prugh, and Harris English — all from the United States — qualified Lashley and Prugh.

All four qualifiers are also playing in this week’s RBC Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Ancaster, Ont. The proximity of that tournament made the U.S. Open qualifier a natural draw.

"It was so easy, just 30 minutes down the road," said Straka. "They made it real easy. It was kind of a no-brainer for me to pick this one."

Straka regularly checked his phone as he waited to learn if the rest of the field would fall back to guarantee his U.S. Open berth, splitting time between the leaderboard at RattleSnake Point and the one at Streamsong Resort in Florida to see if his brother Sam Straka made the cut there. Unfortunately for him, Sam finished six shots back of that cut line.

The so-called longest day in golf saw 10 sectional qualifiers played, with one in England, one in Canada, and eight across the U.S. No Canadians qualified on Monday, but Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., advanced at a sectional in Dallas on May 20 to play at the U.S. Open next week at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

"It’s a long day, mentally, to stay with it for 36 holes, especially as tough as it was to keep grinding away and to keep going," said Hoge, who was going to rest on Tuesday and likely Wednesday to recover for the Canadian Open. "It’s tough just because you get a little bit worn out today, legs and everything."

David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., was the low Canadian at RattleSnake Point, finishing 12th. Although disappointed he’ll be missing out on the U.S. Open, he likes what the tournament represents for the sport of golf in Canada.

"Canadian golf is in a great spot right now, we’ve got a lot of good young players on the PGA Tour," said Hearn. "Maybe the PGA Tour and the USGA have taken notice of that and given us a little bit of love.

"It’s pretty cool to be able to do this qualifier in Canada and I would’ve loved to have been one of the first guys to qualify out of Canada but better luck next year."

RattleSnake Point was especially challenging on Monday, with windy conditions, a soft fairway but firm greens forcing golfers to rely on low, accurate drives to stay in contention.

"More than anything with the wind you just had to be in control of the golf ball," said Hoge. "That’s the same thing you’ve got to do at the U.S. Open, you’ve got to hit the shot that you’re intending to every single time.

"It was the kind of day where if you hit the ball the wrong way the wind will take it all over the place."

RattleSnake Point’s proprietors, ClubLink, hope that the qualifier served as an effective showcase for the golf course since Golf Canada has made it clear that the Canadian Open will remain in the Greater Toronto Area for the foreseeable future.

"There’s been lots of rumours out there and some real discussions going on about that," said Brent Miller, vice-president of corporate operations and member services at ClubLink. "We’d certainly be honoured and we think the place would make a very good test."

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