Victoria’s Jim Rutledge remembers his 1984 PGA Championship of Canada win fondly. It was that victory that sent him, alongside fellow British Columbia pro Dave Barr, to the World Cup in Italy.
Nearly 40 years later, at the 100th playing of the BetRegal PGA Championship of Canada, Rutledge, 62, is back atop the leaderboard.
Managing the difficult Beacon Hall Golf Club in Aurora, Ont., he carded a bogey-free 68 to put himself in a tie for the lead with Wes Heffernan.
“I came into the week so excited to play, not just because it’s the 100th year of the event, but also because of the golf course, and I’m totally pleased with this start,” said Rutledge.
“I had some good up-and-downs to save myself some pars, made some good birdies, so it was a good day overall,” he said.
Rutledge’s resume of golf success gets longer by the year. Last year, he won the Super Senior division at the Senior PGA Championship of Canada (players over the age of 60 are eligible), and nearly won the regular seniors division, as well. He has won the seniors division of the event six times since becoming eligible 12 years ago.
“Winning an event like this would be fabulous,” said Rutledge. “You always come in trying to win, it’s good seeing some of the guys I’ve known for years who come play, and that’s one of the best parts, but I’m going to take the golf one day at a time and one shot at a time and we’ll see.”
Tied with Rutledge atop the leaderboard is Wes Heffernan, the No.1-ranked player on the PGA Player Rankings.
Heffernan, who just competed in the RBC PGA Canadian Open a few weeks ago based on his ranking, made five birdies on Tuesday with just one bogey to also fire an opening-round 68.
“It was kind of the perfect opening round,” said Heffernan, who won the 2019 PGA Assistants’ Championship of Canada. “I didn’t get in any trouble and every miss I had was manageable.”
“Six through 12 is where you have to score on this course and then you have to manage your game on either end because there are tough holes to start and to finish. I made some longer putts and didn’t miss anything I should have made, so it was a low-stress round,” said Heffernan.
While Heffernan’s ball-striking was on point at the RBC Canadian Open earlier this month, his putting left much to be desired. A couple of weeks later at Beacon Hall, the comfort level has returned and the Calgarian was able to roll in a few putts from distance on Tuesday.
“Playing the RBC (Canadian Open) definitely helped. St. George’s greens were a little bit sloppier, which made the putting tough, but made me comfortable for a course like today,” said Heffernan “And also the pressure of playing in the Canadian Open definitely helps. It got me more comfortable for today, for sure.”
The leaderboard is here.