July 24, 2009 / 1:03 AM / in 8 years

Canadian amateurs put putts aheads of pucks

OAKVILLE, Ontario (Reuters) - In a country where golf courses spend a good part of the year under snow, you might not expect to find Canadians Nick Taylor and Matt Hill top of the Royal & Ancient’s world amateur golf rankings.

<p>Sean O'Hair of the U.S. watches his approach shot to the 14th hole during the first round at the Canadian Open golf tournament at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, July 23, 2009. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>

Taylor and Hill, however, are out to prove the Great White North produces more than ice hockey players as the world’s two top-ranked amateur golfers compete in the 100th Canadian Open.

No Canadian has won the national championships since 1954 and while local hopes ride with former-U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir, Taylor and Hill possess resumes that do not rule them out.

Taylor, ranked number one by the Royal & Ancient, was the best amateur at the U.S. Open earlier this month and runner-up at the U.S. Public Links Championship last week.

Hill, ranked right behind Taylor, was the dominate player on the U.S. college circuit winning eight tournaments to lift NCAA player of the year honors and an invitation from world number one Tiger Woods to play in his event at the Congressional.

”When you come to these events, you’re not trying to change anything you’re doing,“ said Hill, who grew up in the same tiny hamlet of Bright’s Grove, Ontario as Weir. ”The courses we play in college are tough out there too.

“So you just come in and play your own game.”

Weir has been the standard bearer for Canadian golf for more than a decade and admits he is surprised that so few of his compatriots have been able to make the jump to the PGA Tour, though believes Hill and Taylor possess the talent that will allow them to succeed.

“Every time I come to the Canadian Open and watch the different players on the Canadian Tour practicing on the range and watching their games, I see a lot of talent,” said Weir.

”It’s a little confusing to me why we haven’t had more guys in my 10 years on the Tour.

”But it’s great to see Nick and Matt doing so well.

”Now if they can just get over that hump.

”It’s a big hump to get over. It took me six years to do it, to get from the Canadian Tour and Asian Tour and Australia to get on the PGA Tour and that was a big hurdle.

”So it’s definitely an evolution.

“Hopefully they can move along a little quicker. They seem to have the maturity, these two guys, to do that, but if they don‘t, they just gotta stick with it, persevere.”

Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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