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'One of the best ball strikers on the planet': Listowel, Ont., tips hat to hometown golf champ

Corey Conners started hitting golf balls at the age of 2 and his father knew early that the future PGA Tour winner had talent.

Corey Conners, who grew up in Listowel, Ont., savours first win on PGA Tour

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., claimed his first PGA Tour win with a victory on Sunday at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Tex. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Corey Conners was just two years old when his father took him to hit golf balls at his home course in Listowel, Ont.

Now, at the age of 27, Conners has claimed his first Professional Golfers' Association Tour win with a victory on Sunday at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Tex.

Conners not only earned $1.35 million US with the win, but a berth into The Masters, perhaps golf's the most prestigious tournament which is set to begin later this week in Augusta, Ga.

Back in his hometown, Conners' father was out at the Listowel Golf Club Monday morning accepting congratulations from well-wishers in the clubhouse. 

"He was only able to play two holes or half a hole here or there or just a few shots when we first started," Michael Conners told CBC News.

"He would walk around the house with anything in his hand, even a piece of celery, and he'd be mimicking a golf swing. He just was always doing it."

Conners grew up in Listowel, a small town in southwestern Ontario. He attended Kent State University in Ohio before turning pro in 2015.

Conners only qualified for the tournament in Texas on Monday. After some erratic play, he made three birdies in the final five holes on Sunday, shooting a 6-under 66. He was 20-under for the tournament, winning by two shots over American Charley Hoffman.

Conners also became the first golfer in nine years to win a PGA Tour event after qualifying on a Monday.

Brenden Parsons, director of operations at the Listowel Golf Club who has played many rounds with Conners, watched his former golf partner on television over the weekend.

"That is one of the most unique score cards I've ever seen," said Parsons. "He's been hitting the ball so well. He just needed the putts to go in. 

"(Conners) is one of the best ball strikers on the planet. He wears out the centre of the club face. He wears out the centre of the fairways and hits almost every green, so it's a pretty good combination."

There will be two Canadians playing in the 83rd edition of The Masters and both are from southwestern Ontario. Sarnia's Mike Weir will join Conners at the first major golf championships of 2019. Weir won the tournament and coveted green jacket in 2003.

Weir tweeted out his congratulations to his fellow Canadian on Sunday.

Parsons believes his friend can find the kind of success Weir did on the PGA Tour.

"He's a gifted athlete in many different genres. He was a terrific hockey player, a good ball player, but he focused on golf and just took off.

"He will be a Canadian icon. It won't be the last time he wins. He's so good."

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