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Keating Jr. getting mentally tough for Staal Foundation Open

After four attempts, Thunder Bay golfer has his sights set on weekend play at the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event.

THUNDER BAY – Of the five Thunder Bay golfers teeing it up this week at the Staal Foundation Open, Walter Keating Jr. is by far the most experienced.

A former touring pro on the Canadian Tour between 1999 and 2003, Keating Jr. has dabbled on the mini-tour circuit over the years and spent time in South Africa and South America.

Ten years ago he was back on the Canadian Tour, making just two cuts in 15 events, but of late has stayed closer to home, content to chase after local championships.

For the past four years, he’s also found his way into the Staal Foundation Open field, last year shooting an opening round 72 before fading later in the day to a 4-over 76 – many of the golfers forced to play 36 holes on Friday after play was washed out the day before.

Offered a sponsor’s exemption to play the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event for a fifth straight summer, Keating Jr. said he’s put plenty of focus into this year’s event as he guns to stay above the cut line and stick around for weekend play.

“I’ve been doing a lot of mental training the last month. It’s just about process and remembering your positives and doing the things that allow you to be successful and doing the things that allow you to be successful within that process,” he said on Wednesday, playing a practice round at Whitewater Golf Club with fellow local golfers Barry Caland, Evan De Grazia and Matt Simmons, the course professional.

“It’s about looking forward and not looking back.”

Despite all the work, Keating Jr. said it was a familiar face who provided the most inspiration this week, as he readied himself for tournament play.

“On Monday I got a chance to bring my daughter out. She caddied me for nine holes. It’s amazing what happens when you bring someone who’s younger and you talk yourself through what you’re going to be doing on each shot and you explain to them why,” Keating Jr. said.

“When you do that, even for yourself it helps you.”

His game’s in great shape, thanks again in part to his family – this time for disappearing for a few days.

“The family went on vacation for about 10 days so I was home alone and I actually got the chance to put the time in necessary to compete with these guys,” he said. “I feel like my process is great. I feel my routine and what I’m working on – visualization – it’s all right there.

“If I can continue to do what I’m doing, the outcome takes care of itself and I’ll be happy no matter how it goes.”

The goal, of course, is to make it to the weekend. He’s doing it for his dad, who found out earlier in the year he’s got bladder cancer.

But if it’s not him, he said he’ll be just as happy to see one of the other locals finally break through.

“For a local to make it to the weekend, we’ll have 3,000 people out here watching on Saturday. It doesn’t matter how you make it, as long as somebody makes it, it’ll be great for everybody.”