Thunder Bay·Audio

Thunder Bay golfer 'on cloud nine' competing at Staal Open

For one golfer from Thunder Bay, Ont., competing in this year's Staal Foundation Open was realizing a goal to play the sport at a professional level.

Dustin Barr, 21, was diagnosed with cancer in pelvis and on pancreas 4 years ago

Dustin Barr, 21-years-old, chatted with CBC Superior Morning in the CBC Thunder Bay, Ont., studio about how focusing on golf and his goals of a professional career in the sport, such as recently playing in the Staal Open, have helped him cope with a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

For one golfer from Thunder Bay, Ont., competing in this year's Staal Foundation Open was realizing a goal to play the sport at a professional level.

But Dustin Barr has had some extra hurdles to get over while travelling that road.

Barr, 21, was diagnosed with cancer in his pelvis and on his pancreas when he was 17. Striving to get back on the links helped keep him motivated, he said.

I never got down on myself-Dustin Barr

"I always kept the dream of being a professional golfer in the back of my mind and I never got down on myself," he said.

"When I had my surgeries and I was beginning to recover and I swung my first golf club, I just made a goal to say I would play professional level golf and I've worked extremely hard to achieve that."

Aside from competing at the pro level at the 2017 Staal Open — a Mackenzie Tour stop at Whitewater Golf Club — he's also attending Thomas University in Georgia on a golf scholarship.

'It was amazing'

Competing alongside other up-and-coming golfers on the Mackenzie Tour, which is a circuit of athletes striving to reach the PGA Tour, was quite an experience, he said.

"It was amazing," he said. "It was like I was sitting on cloud nine for most of it."

While he was a little nervous during the opening round, Barr said he "calmed down," by the time the second round came.
Dustin Barr says it was like being 'on cloud nine' playing at the Staal Foundation Open. (Raising the Barr / Facebook)

"That was the biggest tournament I've played in my life so far," he said.

Asked to pick a tournament highlight, Barr said walking up to the 18th hole during the second round was a thrill. "I hit a pitch shot that landed on the green, running down the hill towards the hole and the whole crowd was just going insane," he said.

"With the crowd getting so hyped up, my heart was racing, I thought the ball was going to go in the hole."

Barr still made birdie on the hole, which got him a loud ovation, he said.

Taking the experience back to school

While Barr didn't make the cut to continue playing on the weekend, he said there's plenty he can take from the experience back to school with him.

During his first year playing golf south of the border, he said he felt similar nerves to playing at the Staal Open.

"I feel like this kind of experience and handling this kind of pressure will definitely help me out in my next college tournaments coming up," he said.
Dustin Barr competed at the 2017 Staal Foundation Open in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont. (Kris Ketonen / CBC)

Knowing that a lot of the money raised by the tournament goes towards children and families dealing with cancer was another high point, Barr said.

"I know the Staal Foundation does great work with the cancer foundation ... I definitely felt a great deal of appreciation for what they do when I was out there playing."

"I want to try to do everything I can to help out," he said.

To hear the interview with Dustin Barr on CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning, click here.

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