An American with Southwestern Ontario ties found golf's holy grail on Wednesday: a 59.
Jesse Smith shot the coveted score at a mini-tour event in Orlando, peeling off 11 birdies at the par-70 Dubsdread Golf Club.
The 59 gave him the lead by four shots at the Fore the Players Tour event and the course record.
Oddly, none of his birdies came on Dubsdread's two par-five holes. His longest streak of birdies was four, beginning at the 12th hole.
His score might suggest a pushover course but he was one of just six men in the field of 26 to break par. He was an astonishing 30 shots better than the last-place finisher.
Smith was born and raised in New Hampshire, the son of a hockey-playing father who skated in the Ontario Hockey League before migrating to New England to play at the college and pro levels.
In an e-mail late Wednesday night, Smith said half his family is from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont., and he's lived there off and on over the past decade as he competed on the Great Lakes Tour (an Ontario mini-tour) and the PGA Tour of Canada, among other tours.
He spent 2005, 2006 and 2012 on the Canadian circuit and plans to tee it up north of the border again this year.
Smith will return to Dubsdread Thursday morning for the second and final round of the tournament, playing in the final group with his nearest competitor Andy Pope, who is third on the fledgling tour's career money list, and Tim Hegarty.
If he hangs on for victory, Smith can expect a winner's cheque in the low four figures, if past tournament payouts are any indication. It's small money in pro golf. Regardless, a 59 is priceless.
HIGH PROFILE FOURSOME: The First Tee of Greater Vancouver has found a foursome of high-profile B.C. golfers to champion its cause, according to pgatourcanada.com.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, Eugene Wong of North Vancouver, Sue Kim of Langley and veteran Dawn Coe-Jones of Campbell River have agreed to be “ambassadors” for the program, which gives kids age 7 to 18 a chance to learn golf and its core values.
The U.S.-based First Tee’s Vancouver chapter is run by the YMCA.
Hadwin is a rising star on the Web.com Tour and Wong is entering his second season on the PGA Tour of Canada. Kim plays on the Symetra Tour and Coe-Jones is a Canadian Golf Hall of Famer who was a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
ON THE TEE: Alena Sharp of Hamilton will make her season debut on the LPGA Tour this week at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif.
Sharp of Hamilton skipped the tour’s season-opening events in Australia and Asian. Then, without full-time status this year, she wasn’t able to get into the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix last week.
She told the Brantford Expositor she was disappointed to miss the Founders Cup, especially considering the tournament takes place close to her adopted home in Chandler, Ariz., and her parents were visiting.
“I have been working hard and was itching to play,” she told Brian Smiley of Brantford. “ (It’s) tough sitting around while everyone else is playing.”
She hasn’t played on the LPGA Tour since last September, when she tied for 37th place at the Navistar LPGA Classic. It was her second-best finish of a disappointing year in which she finished at No. 103 on the money list.
However, since then she’s competed at lower levels, recording a victory on the Cactus Tour and a runner-up finish on the second-tier Symetra Tour this winter.
“All aspects of my game are exactly where I want them to be,” she told Smiley.
Sharp will be among six Canadians in the Kia field. The others are Sara Maude Juneau, Lorie Kane, Maude-Aimee LeBlanc, Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Stephanie Sherlock.
LONG BOMBER: Maude-Aimee LeBlanc of Sherbrooke, Que., leads the LPGA Tour in driving distance with an average swat off the tee of 294.5 yards.
The tour sophomore is also third in greens in regulation (80.6 per cent).
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