THUNDER BAY -- Walter Keating Jr. knows all about life on the PGA Tour Canada.
And he’s glad to be back, if only for a week.
Keating, who played on the then named Canadian Tour from 1999 to 2003, was one of two local players granted special exemptions into next week’s Staal Foundation Open, being contested at Oliver Paipoonge’s Whitewater Golf Course.
“My game’s been pretty good all summer,” said Keating, who just missed qualifying for last weekend’s PGA Tour Canada stop in Winnipeg.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. I ended up shooting 72 (at the qualifier) and just missed. But my game is really, really good. It showed me that I’m where I need to be for next week.”
A golfing nomad ever since, the Youngstown State University grad has competed on the Great Lakes Tour, the Minor League Golf Tour, the NGA Hooters Pro Golf Tour, the Tour de las Americas and South Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
“I played for a long time. I know what I’m doing,” said Keating, who will be joined by Thunder Bay’s Jeff Hunter in next week’s field. Hunter received Tuesday’s other local exemption. Even DeGrazia and Jamie DePiero also grabbed spots, winning local qualifiers last month. Former Thunder Bay resident Alan McLean, a veteran of both the Nationwide and European tours is also expected to tee it up in the Staal Foundation Open.
It was the Canadian Tour where he really cut his golfing teeth, however, learning how to deal with the ins and outs of life as a professional golfer.
“The Canadian Tour taught me a lot, more so about internal pressure that you put on yourself at home, here in Canada. I tended to play a lot better in South America and South Africa, with a little less pressure on yourself,” he said.
“But playing here at home, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Obviously it’s going to be difficult with the hometown crowd and such, but that’s what we play golf for. We play to have that pressure. We play to enjoy it and to just be on the golf course and have friends and family watching. It’s going to be an enjoyable experience, especially at my age.”
The goal, of course is to come away with the trophy.
“The reason you play is to win. No one plays to make the cut. No one plays to finish second.”
Keating wasn’t the only golfer in the spotlight at Tuesday’s announcement. Tournament officials also announced its first batch of stars for Monday’s celebrity pro-am.
Most of Thunder Bay’s NHLers, including Eric, Jordan, Marc and Jared Staal, Tom and Taylor Pyatt, Carter Hutton and Robert Bortuzzo are in the field. Also coming to town are NHLers Matt Cullen and Brett Bellemore, ex-NHLers Scott Walker, Ric Nattress, Trevor Letowski and Stewart Gavin, Olympic curling gold medalist Brad Jacobs and former Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart.
Another 10 celebrities are expected to be named later in the week.
Officials also announced they’ll be bringing in an FI racecar as part of the festivities, which also include Fan Con at Fort William Historical Park.
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