Canadian-born Hughes says winning at home 'would mean everything'

Photo of Canadian-born Hughes says winning at home 'would mean everything'
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DUNDAS, Ontario - It hasn't happened in 63 years.

Pat Fletcher remains the last Canadian-born golfer to win the Canadian Open, accomplishing the feat in 1954 at Point Grey Golf Club in Vancouver, British Columbia, when he won by four strokes over Gordie Brydson and Bill Welch. So, for Canadian golfers like Mackenzie Hughes, the idea of ending the long drought this week at Glen Abbey Golf Club is almost indescribable.

"It would mean everything," Hughes told theScore Tuesday while sitting in the clubhouse at Dundas Valley Golf and Curling Club. "There's so much history with Canadians and the Canadian Open ... it's just a very historic tournament. There's a lot of great names on the trophy, so to put myself up their with those champions, and to be a Canadian winning it ... check in with me on Sunday, and I'll let you know. But it would be a huge honor."

The Dundas, Ontario, native's first memory of the Canadian Open came in 2003 just down the road at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, where as a 12-year-old volunteer he witnessed Bob Tway beat Brad Faxon in a playoff for the title. After the tournament, Hughes even got a unforgettable moment with the runner-up in the clubhouse.

"I was kind of hanging out in front of the clubhouse ... you couldn't send me home," Hughes said. "I just wanted to be there until the last minute, and someone let me into the clubhouse, and I got down in the locker room, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I remember running into Brad Faxon, and he's the last guy in the locker room. He was really nice, welcomed me, didn't say anything like, 'You shouldn't be down here.' Just said, 'What's going on?' We chatted for a minute or two, and he signed his visor that he wore that day and a glove. I still have that stuff in my room. It was really cool."

Nine years later, Hughes would play in his first Canadian Open - ironically at the same venue as 2003. The experience of playing on the big stage that week gave him a taste of what it's like to play on the best tour in the world.

"To come full circle, it's right back at Hamilton, which was really neat," he said. "To be 10 minutes away from you hometown, playing on the PGA Tour for the first time ... I mean, it's pretty hard to put into words. A really special week. It was a little review what was to come."

While the 63-year drought remains the biggest storyline for Canucks at the Canadian Open each year, the 26-year-old doesn't feel any added pressure to hoist the trophy Sunday afternoon in Oakville, especially given the abundance of compatriots who will be joining him on the course.

"The pressure on myself within, is so much greater than whatever Canadian media or the country could put on one person," Hughes said. "I don't feel I carry the load for Canada, because there's so many great Canadian players. I think we're up to 17 Canadians in the field this week. So, if I was the only one here playing in the Canadian Open, it would be a different story, but there's so many great players, that I like Canada's chances of breaking that drought."

Hughes' quest begins Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. ET, when he tees off at the par-4 10th alongside Scott Piercy and Ernie Els.

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