To those that follow professional golf in Canada closely, Brian McCann is a familiar name. To the casual fan, he's likely to be confused with the Atlanta Braves catcher of the same name.
The 37-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., has spent 10 years or so knocking on the door. It certainly hasn't been a firm rap that has blown doors off their hinges but McCann's foray into realm of touring golf hasn't been just a series of gentle taps, either. He's played the better part of two seasons on the Nationwide Tour (now Web.com Tour) and he's regarded as one of Canada's best players who doesn't regularly play on any of golf's main circuits.
"I haven't played well this year but I still love to play and to compete," he said earlier this week.
McCann's latest chance will come Thursday at Hamilton Golf and Country Club when he tees it up in his second RBC Canadian Open and third PGA Tour event overall. He missed the cut at the now-defunct PGA Tour stop in Grand Blanc, Mich., in 2006 and a year later at the Canadian Open at Angus Glen in Markham, Ont.
McCann has earned an exemption by topping the PGA of Canada rankings through a series of tournaments held over the past two years across the country. Though he played the Canadian Tour for a few years with some success about a decade ago, McCann now pieces together a schedule made up of various PGA of Canada events and others such as those on the Ontario-based Great Lakes Tour. He's won both the Ontario PGA title and the CPGA Assistants' championship in the process.
One of the best
Put into layman's terms, McCann has emerged as the best player of the hordes of club professionals who make a living across Canada. To those unfamiliar with how it all works, most of those club pros long ago gave up dreams of playing golf for serious money and are content to give lessons and help golf courses run smoothly. McCann does that as well - he teaches at BraeBen Golf Course in his hometown - but the itch to compete is still there. Besides, as the results have shown, he's still a very good player.
McCann's story is also interesting because his personal situation runs head-long into the financial constraints all but the very best hot- shot prospects have to deal with. He's married with two young sons and simply has no interest in what he calls "going out of pocket" to fund another shot at PGA Tour qualifying, or even playing the Canadian Tour.
Though he hasn't played as well this season, McCann has made a decent chunk of cash during the previous two years. But the amount he has won pales in comparison to what would be needed to attempt to go through the PGA Tour qualifying wringer that occurs every autumn.
To play the Web.com circuit, a player must make it through to the third of three stages of PGA Tour qualifying, a process that costs several thousand dollars with no guarantees of any sort of return. Make it that far and the absolute minimum it would cost a player is $50,000 US per season. To give yourself a chance to play a full schedule properly, it would take closer to $75,000. You can roughly double that amount for the PGA Tour, which after this fall will no longer be accessible through Q School .
It used to be that equipment manufacturers allayed much of that cost by sponsoring players on the PGA Tour and many others one level down. Not anymore. As the golf industry has slumped and the wider economy continues to struggle, sponsorships simply aren't as prevalent for the rank-and-file touring pros the way they were several years ago.
"I know people who could help but I find it difficult to ask people for [financial] help," he said.
Another interesting element to McCann's story is his connection over almost two decades with high-level players and coaches. In 1993, he was a third-team AJGA All-American. His fellow third-teamers included PGA Tour stalwarts Charles Howell III and Hank Kuehne. Tiger Woods was on the first team.
Three years later, McCann helped Canada come fourth at the World Amateur, the country's best finish to that point in the event.
Close friend of Sean Foley
Although they don't see each other as much anymore, McCann is close with Sean Foley, Woods's swing coach, among other leading PGA Tour players. They are so close, in fact, that Foley and McCann were best man at each other's wedding and it would not be inaccurate to say that McCann was Foley's first elite client more than 10 years ago.
"People gravitate to Sean. I knew he was special since he was 13," said McCann, who spent two hours with Foley working together on Monday.
"He told me that I have to take this week as not really meaning anything ... That's the way I have to look at it."
It was spoken in a tone of a guy who agrees with his good friend/coach but with just a hint of wanting to make this week plenty more meaningful
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