Canada eyes Pan Am gold in British Open shadow

Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:29pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The focus of the golf world may be on the British Open this week but Pan American Games gold is the target for an LPGA Tour veteran, an NHL referee and an 18-year-old Canadian amateur who counts Jordan Spieth as a good friend.

Even Austin Connelly admits he will be keeping tabs on what unfolds at St. Andrews where his occasional practice partner, Masters and U.S. Open champion Spieth, seeks to add a third major to his collection while trying for his own bit of history by capturing gold in golf's Pan Am Games debut.

Born and raised in Nova Scotia but now a resident of Dallas, Connelly has developed a friendship and working relationship with Texan Spieth, the two sharing gym time and a swing coach.

But while the 21-year-old Spieth is already an established force on the PGA Tour, Connelly is preparing to embark on his professional career with plans to attend qualifying school later this year or instead take up a golf scholarship at the University of Arkansas.

"I see him (Spieth) all the time, I will be checking the (British Open) scores," Connelly told Reuters before firing an opening round two-under 70 on Thursday. "When we are at home, I see him in the gym almost five days a week. I practise with him sometimes and play with him quite often.

"I've known him for quite a while and to see where he came from is unbelievable. Not too long ago he was in my shoes right now, and all of sudden he is a two-time major champion with a chance at a grand slam."

While Connelly is focused on a professional career, fellow Canadian Garrett Rank's future is likely to be more rinks than links.

A top amateur golfer, Rank was on the fence between pursuing a golf or hockey refereeing career when the National Hockey League offered him a contract that he admits he could not refuse.   Continued...

Lorie Kane of Canada reacts after missing a putt on the ninth green during the second round of the LPGA Canadian Women's Open golf tournament in Coquitlam, British Columbia August 24, 2012.   REUTERS/Andy Clark