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Cam Burke (John Richardson Jr.)

Cam Burke

(John Richardson Jr.)

Short Game: Cam Burke hangs on for first pro title Add to ...

Two-time Canadian Amateur champion Cam Burke has found the winner’s circle as a professional for the first time.

On Thursday, the 25-year-old from New Hamburg, Ont., won the Founders Club Classic, a new event on the eGolf Tour.

Burke didn’t do it the easy way, though. In cold and wet conditions at the Founders Club in Southport, N.C., he closed the third and final round with bogeys on the last four holes – hanging on for a one-stroke victory over Harold Varner III.

“Obviously, I would have liked to have won in different fashion,” Burke told egolfprofessionaltour.com, “but I’m proud of the way I played this week. I’m very happy that I pulled it off.”

His final-round of four-over-par 76 (and three-day total of two-under 214) doesn’t seem like a champion’s score but it was not out of place among the field, which struggled through drizzle, downpours and gusting winds that reached speeds of 20 to 30 miles an hour. Just a couple of players broke par.

“This round was just so hard. It was a see-what-you-can-do-out-there kind of day,” Burke said. “Today was all about the conditions, and sometimes that’s just going to happen.”

One of the few players to tame the Founders Club Thursday was another two-time Canadian Amateur champion, MacKenzie Hughes. The rookie pro from Dundas, Ont., carded his third consecutive 72 and shot up the leader board to a tie for third place, his best eGolf finish.

Burke has played on the eGolf Tour, considered the hottest men’s mini-tour in the United States, for a couple of seasons, amassing seven top-10 finishes in 43 starts.

His victory Thursday came with a $14,000 (U.S.) winner’s cheque and took him to No. 3 on the season money list. “I’m really happy with the way I’m playing right now, so we’ll see where I can take it.”

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CANADIAN CONNECTION: Legendary Canadian architect Stanley Thompson helped design the Brazilian course that is hosting the Web.com Tour’s Brasil Classic this week.

From 1932 to 1935, Thompson worked on the design and update of the Sao Paulo Golf Club with Jose Maria Gonzalez, the Stanley Thompson Society’s website notes.

Thompson was Canada’s pre-eminent designer in the classic course era, responsible for such domestic gems as Banff Springs, Jasper Park and St. George’s. But he also had his hands on a few  international courses, mostly in the Caribbean and South America.

Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., called Sao Paulo Golf Club a “great course” on Twitter this week and his good feelings showed in the first round Thursday.

He shot four-under 67 and was tied for ninth place, the best of the Canadian contingent in the field.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Beacon Hall, one of Canada’s top private courses, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Rather than keep the party to itself, the Aurora, Ont., course is launching a public awareness campaign to showcase the club and seek out the “next generation of members.”

It will air messages on Toronto radio station 680 News and place banner ads in The Globe and Mail.

The Robert Cupp-designed course has consistently been ranked among Canada’s top 10 since opening. But its privileged position has not left it immune to the realities of operating a golf club in today’s challenging business climate.

“For the past 25 years we have quietly, and quite successfully, gone about our business of providing a world-class membership experience,” says Phil Hardy, Beacon Hall’s long-standing director of golf. “Now is the time to open the gates a little and showcase the club, the course and our history with golfers and our surrounding communities. We are going to do something that no top-end private club has done – take to the radio airwaves to extol the merits of membership.”

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THINKING AHEAD: A pair of Canadians might join Lydia Ko in the ceremonial jump into Poppie's Pond on Sunday if the amateur phenom wins the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The victor at the LPGA Tour's first major of the season traditionally leaps into the water hazard beside the 18th green at the Mission Hills Country Club's Dinah Shore course in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"If I get to do the jump it'll be a pretty amazing moment," the 15-year-old, who was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand, said Wednesday at a press conference ahead of her first career Kraft Nabisco appearance.

Asked who would accompany her besides her caddy, she said likely her mother and two Canadian Koreans with whom she's staying this week. Ko met the unidentified Canadians last year at the CN Canadian Women's Open, which Ko won, and they invited her to stay at their California condo this week.

"We're staying with them and they are going to watch the whole week," Ko said of her hosts. "Hopefully they will jump in as well."

The pond has been cleaned up since Amy Alcott started the tradition in 1988 with an impromptu jump with her caddy. It's been deepened, too, to make it safer. Morgan Pressel's mother broke her leg plunging with her daughter in 2007.

Asked if she can swim, Ko said: "Well, I hope so. We'll see then."

The world's top-ranked female amateur has already won three professional tournaments despite being unable to legally drive yet. The Canadian national championship was the biggest and gave her the distinction of being the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history.

She'll be paired in the opening two rounds Thursday and Friday with Michelle Wie, a former child prodigy herself whom Ko described as her "idol." They've shared a tee box before. "Luckily I've experienced playing with her and Yani (Tseng) at the Australian Open. Yeah I got to know a little more about her. I think she's a very good player, and I'm very excited to be able to play with her."

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BEEN THERE, DONE THAT If Lydia Ko does prevail on Sunday, she wouldn't actually be the first amateur to win an LPGA Tour major. Catharine Lacoste captured the 1967 U.S. Women's Open.

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BURKE IN DRIVER'S SEAT Former Canadian Amateur champion Cam Burke has a chance to win his first significant tournament on Thursday.

Burke of New Hamburg, Ont., takes a one-stroke lead into the third and final round of the Founders Club Classic, an eGolf Professional Tour event in Southport, N.C.

The 25-year-old has been playing on the U.S. Southeast mini-tour for the past couple of seasons and is in good form in 2013. He posted five top-10 finishes last year, including a runner-up result, and has added another one this year.

He's made the cut in all six starts this year and has finished no worse than a tie for 16th spot.

“I think I’ve been a little more patient this year," he told the tour's website, egolfprofessionaltour.com. "I’ve been focused more on playing a whole golf tournament as opposed to trying to throw in a crazy low score now and then. The conditions this year haven’t really allowed for too many low scores, but I’m sure they’ll come around at some point.”

Victory has been elusive despite the steady performances. But that could change quickly.

"I think I’m ready to break through," said Burke, who won the 2008 and 2009 Canadian Ams but hasn't cashed a winner's cheque as a pro other than at a small pro-am in Michigan. "I’ve had plenty of chances in the last year or so."

Burke enters the final round at the Founders Club at six-under-par 138, one ahead of Carlos Sainz of the United States.

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GIMME A BREAK: The 19th season of Golf Channel’s Big Break series won’t have any Canadian competitors. But at least a few of them have connections north of the border.

Golf Channel announced the cast of Big Break Mexico on Tuesday. The new season begins airing May 13.

The cast of six male and six female competitors is dominated by Americans – 11 in all. The only non-American is Liebelei Lawrence of Luxembourg.

Canada has been represented well in past seasons, with Derek Gillespie of Oshawa, Ont., and David Byrne of Essex, Ont., among the 18 champions. James Lepp of Abbotsford, B.C., and Kent Eger of Regina were runners-up.

But the only Canadian connections in Mexico are a couple of players from the CN Canadian Women’s Tour. Lindsey Bergeron has played on the three-event mini-tour in recent years and McKenzie Jackson has it on her agenda this year.

Emily Talley, the youngest Big Break Mexico contestant, played her way into the CN Canadian Women’s Open through its Monday qualifier last year. The 22-year-old is one of two contestants who’ve played an LPGA Tour event.

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ANOTHER SHUTOUT The Canadian flag won’t be flying this week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship either.

No Canadians qualified for the LPGA Tour’s first major of the season.

Alena Sharp of Hamilton was the only Canuck in the field last year. She tied for 75th place.

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PAST AND PRESENT One of the more intriguing pairings at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in the first two rounds is former child prodigy Michelle Wie and current child prodigy Lydia Ko, a New Zealand amateur who is just 15 but has won three pro events, including the 2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open.

Tennis aficionados might notice a couple of offspring of former tennis stars in the field, too: Jessica Korda, daughter of Petr, and amateur Isabelle Lendl, daughter of Ivan.

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IRONMAN Brad Fritsch, the only Canadian in the field this week at the PGA Tour's Valero Texas Open, will be playing for the sixth consecutive week.

But that's nothing new for the Ottawa-raised ironman. Fritsch played the final seven weeks in a row on the Web.com Tour last season and 26 events overall on the year.

At the Texas Open, he'll be looking to get back on track after missing the cut last week at the Shell Houston Open. He's won more than $263,000 (U.S.) this year in his rookie season and sits at No. 103 on the tour's money list.

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RELATED LINK: More blogs by Jeff Brooke

 

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