Next on the tee at Uplands: Canada’s young guns

There will be the usual overwhelming numerical dominance this week at Uplands Golf Club of young American hotshots out of big-name NCAA schools.

But among the more compelling storylines coming out of the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada in recent years has been the rising number of home-grown Canadians who have springboarded out of it and onto the PGA Tour.

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It’s a list that includes Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners, Ben Silverman, Roger Sloan, Nick Taylor, Adam Svensson, Adam Hadwin and Olympians Graham DeLaet and David Hearn.

Now it’s the turn of the next generation. Part of it is on Bear Mountain at the Golf Canada national training centre and part of it is already on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, which rolls into Victoria for the 37th consecutive year for this week’s Bayview Place DCBank Open presented by the Times Colonist.

Leading lights among that next rising tide of Canadian golfers are Jared du Toit, Hugo Bernard and Taylor Pendrith, who are ready to take on the Uplands layout.

They have big Foot Joys to fill when looking up to the likes of Hughes, Conners, Taylor and Hadwin.

It’s part of a process that really doesn’t have a timeline, said du Toit.

“It’s not so much pressure we feel [to emulate the previous wave of Canadian pros] . . . we look upon it as more of a challenge,” added the native of Kimberley.

“It took those guys a while to get where they are now. And that won’t be any different with whatever generation. We are very much aware it takes time.”

Du Toit, Bernard and Pendrith all made the cut this weekend in the Canada Life Open at Point Grey Golf Club in Vancouver, which is the opening event on the 2019 Mackenzie Tour.

Every week is another step to the ultimate destination, which might yet be years ahead.

“My goal for sure is to play on the PGA Tour full time,” said the Quebecer Bernard.

The 2016 Canadian amateur champion broke into the pro ranks last fall in the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and made three cuts in four tournaments, continuing that trend in his first PGA Tour Canada event this weekend at Point Grey.

“It’s a huge confidence boost making the cut in my first Canadian Tour event and I’m excited for the rest of the year,” said Bernard.

“I realize it’s going to be a long year.”

Yet, one filled with rewards. The winner of the Bayview Place DCBank Victoria Open gets a spot in the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open in two weeks in Hamilton, Ont.

Bernard appears to have the physical game for the grind.

“I like to be aggressive,” said the six-foot-three, 205-pounder.

“I can hit it far and I’m a good irons player.”

He also appears to have the mental mettle. Heading into the final hole of the second round Friday at Point Grey at 2-over par and two strokes off the cut, Bernard made eagle on the 18th hole to make the cut and advance to play Saturday and today. (James Allenby of Langley, a Canadian outlier in so many regards on the Mackenzie Tour at 34, led the tournament after two rounds.)

Bernard and du Toit, both 24, are great friends and have represented Canada internationally.

“I spent a month and a half recently on Bear Mountain at the Golf Canada national training centre and I found it to be a very good setup,” said du Toit.

“The dividends of the national centre are starting to show.”

Du Toit was named to the Team Canada Young Pros squad in 2018 with Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont. Bernard, on the 2018 Canadian national amateur team, will almost surely make the jump to the Canadian Young Pros team when the 2019 national team rosters are unveiled next month at Bear Mountain.

“Our mantra is to produce champions by design, not by chance,” said Jeff Thompson, chief sport officer for Golf Canada, when announcing last year’s national-team golfers on Bear Mountain.

“We’ve never had more Canadians contending on leaderboards, both pro and amateur, around the world.”

Bernard, Pendrith and du Toit are in that emerging Canadian pro cohort.

Pendrith and du Toit tied for 23rd last year at the Bayview Place DCBank Open at 6-under 274. But it was far more painful a placing for du Toit, who was alone in third place after three rounds, before spiralling with a 5-over 75 on the final day Sunday.

Du Toit admits he can be a “streaky” player. That was certainly one of those learning moments every pro golfer must go through.

“I want to remember how this feels so I can avoid feeling like this again,” said du Toit, after that disastrous final round last year in the B.C. capital.

He gets another swing at Uplands this week.

“It’s an old-school course,” said the former NCAA Pac-12 Arizona State golfer, whose grandparents live in Victoria and will be cheering him on this week.

“It’s a precision course and you’ve got to be in control of where you hit it.”

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