The leader board at the RBC Canadian Open hosted a parade of nations on Sunday afternoon, none of them repping the maple leaf. Maybe next year, Canadian golf fans mumbled, a tiresome and familiar refrain that is more hopeful than promising.
For the 62nd consecutive year, a Canadian did not win the Canadian Open. For the first time, a Venezuelan won it, Jhonattan Vegas, with a closing round of eight-under par 64 at Glen Abbey Golf Club.
Vegas is an intriguing story himself, the son of a father who was a victim of persecution for his opposition to Venezuela’s president at the time, Hugo Chavez.
But in Canada, a better story regardless would be crowning a Canadian champion for the first time since Pat Fletcher’s victory in 1954.
By Sunday in this the 107th playing of the Canadian Open, it was a long shot at best. Its only hope was a precocious amateur, Jared du Toit, 21 and a senior to be at Arizona State. Du Toit received two extended ovations on the first tee alone, one interrupting the starter’s introduction and one at the conclusion of it.
Du Toit, who began a stroke behind entering the final round, played admirably, posting a one-under par 71 and finishing tied for ninth.
Meanwhile, six other countries were represented at or near the top of the leader board on the back nine on Sunday: Spain (Jon Rahm), Germany (Alex Cjeka), Scotland (Martin Laird), Australia (Geoff Ogilvy), Venezuela (Vegas) and the United States (Brandt Snedeker, Steve Wheatcroft and Dustin Johnson).
Vegas, playing in front of most of them, birdied his final three holes and four of his last six to get to the clubhouse at 12-under par 276. Then he waited as a series of those stumbled in pursuit.
That left Jhonny Vegas, as he’s popularly known. It was victory No. 2 for Vegas, whose first came in the Bob Hope Classic in his second start as a member of the PGA Tour, in 2011.
“It’s never easy,” Vegas, 31, said. “I won on my second start as a rookie. I really thought it was going to be a little bit easier right after that. But it’s been five tough years with injuries to kind of get your momentum back to win golf tournaments.
“It’s incredible. There are a lot of emotions running through my head right now. I’m super excited. It’s incredible from where I started this year, not having full status on tour. Knowing that it was going to be a really tough year, I think was a great thing for me, because it made me realize how much I loved being here and how much harder I had to work to get back here.”
For one of the more engaging players on the PGA Tour, it will be a popular victory in many precincts, though one of them was hoping for so much more.
Maybe next year, Canada.