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Staal Open rain delay means Thunder Bay golfers have to bang out 36 holes today

None of the five Thunder Bay entrants at the Staal Foundation Open managed to tee off on a rainy opening day of the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event.
Walter Keating Jr
Walter Keating Jr. on the practice green at Whitewater Golf Club on Thursday, July 13, 2017 (Leith Dunick,

OLIVER PAIPOONGE – After waiting out a 3.5-hour rain delay, all five local players entered into the Staal Foundation Open learned they’ll have to play 36 holes on Friday.

All five took the news in stride.

Walter Keating Jr., the most experienced of the group, with more than 100 professional events under his belt, said it’s no big deal.

“You’ve still got a tee time tomorrow,” said Keating Jr., seeking to make his first cut in four attempts at the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event.

“The most important part of the week for guys locally is having a tee time to play.”

Keating Jr., Chris Gardner and Brett Shewchuk were scheduled to start their tournament at 2 p.m. on Thursday on Whitewater Golf Club’s 10th hole, with Dustin Barr and Evan DeGrazia set to go on the first hole alongside NHL hall-of-famer Grant Fuhr.

But a steady rain fell for much of the early afternoon and increased its pace, forcing tour officials to halt play at 1:34 p.m.

At 5 p.m. the decision was made to call it a day.

“Thirty-six holes in one day is always tough, especially at my age. It’s not quite as easy as it used to be,” Keating Jr. said.

“I would say more for the younger guys, the expectation is tough, because they’re ready to go and they want to get started. I’m 41 and it takes a whole lot to get me fired up. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow. If I can get it rolling, 36 in one day is no big deal.”

De Grazia, also making his fourth start at the Staal Foundation Open, said it’s not ideal, but doable.

“Thirty-six holes in one day is definitely a long day, but it doesn’t really bother me because that’s how we play in college,” he said.

“Being washed out today doesn’t change my outlook on the tournament. It’s just going to be getting a good rest tonight because that’s going to be important. I’ll go out tomorrow and have some fun.”

Gardner, an assistant professional at Whitewater, would rather have started play on Thursday, but said he’ll make the best of the situation on Friday.

“Mother Nature, we can’t do anything about it. The more patience you have, the better,” Gardner said.

“I’m actually looking forward to playing 36 tomorrow. It’s going to be a nicer day. It’s going to dry out, so the course will recover.”

The 21-year-old Barr said he was expecting to get in at least a few holes on Day 1, especially as the sun began to peek through the late afternoon clouds.

But it was not to be, he said.

“It’s going to be 36 holes for me tomorrow, which is going to be mentally draining, but I’m just going to have to keep grinding. It’s going to be hot out, so it’s going to be harder. It’s going to be a long day, so I’m just going to try to keep hydrated,” Barr said.