The 2005 champion finally has arrived, the sun is shining, and many hungry young golfers are anxious for that walk to the first tee.
The Canadian Tour, arguably the best of the entry-level golf circuits, opens its 2008 season today at Del Rio Country Club for the Spring International Presented by Foster Farms Dairy.
"They make it exciting, shooting their 62s and 63s," said Canadian Tour Commissioner Richard Janes, who chatted with players on the practice green Wednesday afternoon. "They'll shoot low scores. It's inevitable."
Stuart Anderson, 30, the strapping 6-foot-4-inch veteran pro raised in Edmonton, won the Canadian Tour stop at Del Rio in 2005. He shot 17-under-par 271, anchored by two 66s, and speculation has centered on whether this year's winner will go lower. Anderson didn't arrive in Modesto until Wednesday because he and his sister auditioned for Big Break 10, part of The Golf Channel reality golf series, in Virginia.
Del Rio has built three new teeing areas and stretched its par-72 Oak and Bluff nines to 6,919 yards. The mostly dormant bermuda fairways may yield more of a roll, however, to negate the added length.
"The layout is awesome. Even with the fairways being a little suspect, Del Rio gives you a little visual aid with the trees on both sides. They're so defined," said Palm Desert's Byron Smith, the CanTour's Order of Merit leader in 2007. "I love this style. It's simple and not tricked up and challenging."
A field of 159, spiced by six locals featuring Modesto's Nationwide Tour entry Matt Bettencourt, will be cut to the low 60 and ties after Friday's second round. The $100,000 purse is highlighted by the $16,000 first prize.
Modesto's Marc Peterson and Ceres' Ryan Thornberry, who have planned their schedules around the Canadian Tour's 16 events, also are here, along with former Cal State Stanislaus star Marc Lawless. Del Rio's two members berths were earned by Patrick Burda and Jeff Mullen.
Also at Del Rio is the official defending champion, Adam Bland, who won last year at Boulder Ridge in San Jose. Next week, the Canadian Tour takes a short drive to Brookside CC for the Stockton Sports Commission Classic.
DIVOTS -- Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, a frequent competitor on the Celebrity Tour, will try his luck thanks to a sponsor's exemption. ... Four withdrawals Wednesday opened the door to a lucky quartet, including San Diego's Andreas Huber, whose mother is Emmy-winning soap-opera star Susan Lucci. "She's told me to just allow yourself to succeed," he said. "She's right. I've worked pretty hard, and now it's time to just let it happen."
Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.
- WHAT: The Spring International Presented By Foster Farms Dairy