The e-mails come in daily from readers deploring how few Canadians have succeeded on the PGA Tour. Daily they wonder who might be the next Canadian to follow up on what Mike Weir and Stephen Ames – most recently – have accomplished. They have looked this year to Weyburn, Sask.’s Graham DeLaet, who has all but secured a return to the PGA Tour next year after moving from 129th to 114th on the money list after the Viking Classic the same week as the Ryder Cup. The top 125 at year-end earn the right to a 2011 PGA Tour card.
Yet the parlour game continues, as Canadians look for the newest Tour golfer who could fulfill their hopes. Just now, that golfer is probably Nick Taylor, the hitherto virtuoso golfer from the Ledgeview Golf and Country Club in Abbotsford, B.C. Taylor, 22, played the one-day Tour Championship on the Vancouver Golf Tour last week. It was his first outing as a pro. Taylor went 3-under par the last three holes to shoot 2-under 70 and tie for sixth, good for $525.
“From my observations Nick is a very cool individual when he goes about his business on the golf course,” Fraser Mulholland, who runs the developmental Vancouver Golf Tour, said. “He’s not the normal chest-out kind of professional, not an outwardly cocky bone in his body, which is a great characteristic to have, and because of this, I believe he will win a lot of fans over, both on and off the golf course.”
Taylor graduated from the University of Washington this year. He appears to have it all, including hard-to-define qualities such as mental toughness and feistiness. He absolutely hated it when he missed the cut in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Taylor made a few mistakes coming in and, as always, was quiet when talking about his round after he finished. But it was clear that he was fuming, and that he would learn from the experience.
Taylor did learn. He won the prestigious Sahalee Players Championship the next year. The 2006 Canadian Junior champion – by 11 shots – and the 2007 Canadian Amateur champion, qualified for the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. and shot 65 in the second round. That tied the lowest score ever by an amateur. Taylor tied for 36th at that U.S. Open, which earned him low amateur honours.
That same year, 2009, Taylor was the world’s top-ranked amateur for 21 weeks. He ascended to the position after being the medalist in June in U.S. Amateur final qualifying, and kept it into November. This year he had nine top-10 finishes in 12 college tournaments. Last July, he won the Ledgeview Open on the Vancouver Golf Tour when he came from six shots behind after the first round. He shot 65 the second and final round to win by a shot. As an amateur, he could not accept the $2,600 first prize, but he had again shown that he could go low when he needed to.
Meanwhile, Taylor had won the Ben Hogan Award in May. It’s college golf’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded annually to the top college football player in the U.S.
Taylor, a former member of Golf Canada’s Team Canada, received the award at a ceremony during dinner at the Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, Tex. The PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational was played there that week. Taylor received an exemption into the 2011 Crowne Plaza for winning the Ben Hogan Award.
“Growing up in Abbotsford, B.C, Canada, golf is not the first sport you think of,” Taylor said during his acceptance speech. “It’s always hockey.” But he had made Abbotsford and his home club proud. He had also made the University of Washington proud.
“He is an amazing player, person and teammate,” his college coach Matt Thurmond said at the ceremony. “I suspect many more awards await him.”
The first award Taylor seeks is his PGA Tour card. This week in Dayton, Nev., he’ll begin the first of what he hopes – no, intends – to be a run through all three stages of qualifying school and on to the 2011 PGA Tour.
Like many young Canadians, Taylor has been encouraged by Weir’s success. Moreover, living in British Columbia, he was particularly aware of what Weir did in the PGA Tour’s Air Canada Championship in 1999. Taylor was only 11, but he remembers Weir shooting 64-64 on the weekend to win his first PGA Tour event. Weir holed out for eagle on the 14th hole in the final round.
“I remember watching the Air Canada championship on TV, when Mike holed out to win,” Taylor once recalled. “But being that kind of high-profile event and to win The Masters (as Weir did in 2003), it’s just something you want to do. If you’re a Canadian, you want to follow in his footsteps and have that kind of success.”
Taylor may well have that kind of success.