Surprises galore as Canadian Open draws 18,000 on first day

Victor who? More than one person watching, either at the course or on television, was asking that question when the Canadian Open’s first round was completed on the leaderboard.

Victor Ciesielski contemplates a putt on Thursday at the Canadian Open.
(Photo: Ron Bernardo)

And yes, it is only the first day, but Victor Ciesielski was the top Canadian when all the scores were turned in Thursday. The 21-year-old Cambridge golfer and university student walked off the Hamilton Golf and Country Club with a two-under par 68th.

“It was pretty special”, Ciesielski said in a definite understatement.

And yes again, that leaves him – and 17 others who are tangled in 29th place – five shots back of leaders Jim Furyk (which supports his top-ranked Open player label) and Justin Rose who scorched the 6,983 yards of the Ancaster layout with rounds of 63. But it also puts Ciesielski, who wasn’t even in the Open until he won one of two spots in Monday’s qualifying tournament, ahead of Mike Weir and Calgary’s Stephen Ames. They both came home with one-over par 71s and are knotted with 16 others in the 92nd spot. Milton’s Danny King matched their efforts.

Weir, from Bright’s Grove (near Sarnia) could find only one birdie (on the par-4 fifth hole) but played two bogeys, including one at the par-3 eighth.

After Friday’s second round the field of 156 will be cut to the low 70s and ties, which means PGA regulars Weir and Ames could be watching the amateur Ciesielski. And for the record for those who don’t know (and there are many), Ciesielski does know his golf. He won the national club championship in 2005.

He wasn’t the only Canadian content to have a fair day on the course. James Lepp (Abbotsford, B.C.), Darren Griff (Nanaimo, B.C.) and David Hearn (Brantford) each had one-under 69s and were crammed in 47th place with 21 others. One shot back of them and in a field 21 tied for 71st, was another Cambridge golfer, Ian Leggatt with his even-pat 70.
Anyone looking at the leaderboard will see that Ciesielski wasn’t the only surprise of the opening round on a very generous golf course. Seventy players returned to the clubhouse with scores in the 60s. They were breaking par like a frat house breaks wind on beer night. Last year only 21 players broke par on the first day.

Mark Calcavecchia, last year’s winner, Thursday had an impressive 66 that on most days would be good enough for the lead. He sits in a four-way tie for 11th but hardly out of the running. “I’m just in a tournament that I love,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of pride to put up a good show and try and prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.”

Vijay Singh, the Open’s 2003 champion, carded a respectable 68 that bunched him with Ciesielski’s gang in 29th. Makes you wonder, which one is in good company?

Round two goes on Friday. Open officials estimated that 18,000 spectators visited the Hamilton Golf and Country Club for Thursday’s start.

Canadian scores were: (a) Victor Ciesielski, Cambridge, Ont. 68; Darren Griff, Nanaimo, BC 69; David Hearn, Brantford, Ont. 69; James Lepp, Abbotsford, B.C. 69; (a) Richard Scott, Kingsville, Ont. 69; Ian Leggatt, Cambridge, Ont. 70; Stephen Ames, Calgary, Alta. 71; Danny King, Milton, Ont. 71; Mike Weir, Bright’s Grove, Ont. 71; Wes Heffernan Calgary, Alta. 72; (a) James Love, Calgary, Alta. 72; David Morland IV, Aurora, Ont. 72; (a) Todd Halpen, Calgary, Alta. 73; Jim Rutledge, Victoria, B.C. 73; Jon Mills, Oshawa, Ont. 73; Brad Fritsch, Manotick, Ont. 74.