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Working for the weekend

Wong aims to make cut at PGA's Canadian Open

NORTH Vancouver golfer Eugene Wong wants nothing more than to be able to play a couple of rounds of golf this weekend.

While this may sound like a fairly standard desire, theres a lot more at stake for Wong than a suntan and stroll in the trees.

The PGA tour is in Vancouver this week for the RBC Canadian Open and Wong, an amateur player who was given an exemption to play in the tournament, will be teeing it up alongside PGA professionals for the third time in his career. In two previous tries, however, hes never made the 36-hole cut that would allow him to play the final two rounds of a PGA event.

I want those Saturday and Sunday tee times, Wong told the North Shore News on Monday a few moments after finishing a nine-hole practice round on the back nine of the host course, the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.

Making the cut, however, is no simple task when playing against the worlds best golfers. Wong has a stellar record as an amateur a world junior title, two Canadian Amateur Championship runner-ups and a 2010 NCAA player of the year award top his resume but its a different ballgame when the crowds, camera crews and, most importantly, professional players take over a course.

As the only amateur competing in the 2011 Memorial Tournament earlier this season Wong finished at eight-over par, missing the cut by seven strokes. At the 2010 Canadian Open he shot a solid three-over par but still missed the cut by four.

Its not just the competition thats tougher at a pro event as compared to the amateur circuit, said Wong, a University of Oregon student who will begin his senior season with the Ducks this fall.

First things first, the course setup is harder, he said. The greens are faster, pins are tougher.

But Wong is hoping this will be his breakthrough PGA tour event. Though he hasnt played Shaughnessy very many times, the Handsworth secondary grad is still banking on a little home court advantage.

I get to eat and sleep in my own bed, which is a great thing to have, he said. Ive got a bunch of friends coming out to watch me play. Itll be good.

Wong has a game plan ready for Shaughnessy and it wont involve blasting away on every hole.

The course is so narrow and small fairways are definitely a premium thing, he said. The rough is so thick, if you get in the rough theres a good chance you wont even be able to get to the green youll need to chip it out or something. Hitting fairways is a premium and hitting a lot of greens if those things dont work well I hope my chipping is good.

Making the cut is the goal, but even if he doesnt crack the weekend lineup Wong said he is still gaining a lot of valuable experience at these PGA events.

Its a good standard to see where Im at in the professional world, he said. (Its good) to see how they play the game, prepare themselves, technique and see what things I need to get better at.

This event in particular has special meaning for Wong because it is Canadas national open. Its the second oldest stop on the PGA tour and the third oldest national championship tournament in the world.

Its an honour for me to play in a tournament like this, said Wong. It has such a rich history behind it.

Opportunities like this weeks tournament provide great incentive and experience, said Wong.

My first tour event I was kind of nervous but I got used to it. Im not as nervous as before because I know what to expect, I know the procedure, he said, adding that once he finishes his senior season at Oregon hell be gunning for a full-time spot on the PGA tour. Thats my dream since I was a young boy. Thats what Im going to pursue: being a professional golfer on the PGA tour.

Tickets for the Canadian Open are still available. The tournament will also be shown on television 12-3 p.m. Thursday and Friday on TSN and 12-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on Global.