Taylor Pendrith hits it further than any Canadian professional golfer. Period. But on Sunday at the National Capital Open to Support our Troops he couldn’t convert a 10-foot birdie attempt – or the short comebacker for par – that would have won him the tournament.
The miss dashed his chances for victory in a playoff for the second time this season, as American Sam Ryder made a four-foot par for his first Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada victory.
But Pendrith didn’t come away from the Ottawa-based Hylands Golf Club empty-handed. Sure, he earned $18,500 CAD for his efforts, but he also earned a legion of new fans.
I walked the full final round with Pendrith and Ryder, and the crowd was certainly pro-Pendrith.
Was there a rooting interest because he was Canadian? Probably.
But some of the thrill of watching someone like Pendrith is because of the way he hits the golf ball (see: Daly, John).
He took a few lines off tees at Hylands Golf Club that a few members were speaking about as “impossible.” The phrase, “I’ve never seen that before” was uttered repeatedly.
And, every time Pendrith would pull out driver – which was frequently on Sunday as he tried to keep up with the very steady play of his American counterpart – the crowd was on their tip toes and strained their necks to watch the magic unfold.
“I’m not short by any means, but he plays a different game for sure,” said Ryder after he emerged victorious from the playoff. “You can’t let that stuff bother you, because he just kills it.”
Even while fellow-American Clayton Rask mounted a charge of his own and briefly tied for the lead briefly Sunday afternoon – he was in the group ahead of Ryder and Pendrith – the crowd never thinned.
Watching Taylor Pendrith hit a golf ball became a spectacle, and the crowd wanted to be a part of it.
Pendrith is used to it.
He became front-page news at the 2014 RBC Canadian Open after shooting an opening-round 65 to tie for third. He garnered national media attention, appeared on the Golf Channel, and was featured in Golf Digest.
The long-hitting Pendrith has always used his power to his advantage – power he developed while playing baseball and hockey growing up (“I had a pretty hard slap-shot” was one of the most obvious comments he’s told me in the past) but what was unique to see is how far along his short game has developed.
On the par-4 4th Sunday, Pendrith was not confident in an approach to the green, as he left himself in jail near a tree. He hit it fat, and it landed in a bunker with an extremely difficult lie. He flopped it high and it landed soft, close enough for a tap-in par.
A member of the gallery, said, “Nothing to it” as Pendrith sheepishly smiled.
For Pendrith, a member of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Program and a graduate of Kent State University, as the rest of his game tightens up and aligns with his incredible distance, the golf world as a whole should be put on notice.
“I took a lot of positives from this week,” he said. “I shot 20-under with 25 birdies and two eagles (Note: the 25 birdies was the most on the Mackenzie Tour in a single week), so that gives me a lot of confidence.
“I had a lot of chances out there, I just couldn’t get it done.”
Although Pendrith was left with no more than a wedge on a number of the holes on both the front and back nine, his approaches averaged 20-30 feet, giving him some difficult looks as the day went on.
Down by one as the sun began to set, Pendrith was able to convert a 25-foot birdie on the par-4 17th which he could later describe as “pretty clutch.”
The crowd cheered, Pendrith dropped a small fist pump and the “match” with Ryder (as it essentially had turned into) went to the short 18th all-square.
Pendrith would emerge on the losing end on this day. But the spectators at Hylands still enjoyed the show.
Pendrith will not be in the Mackenzie Tour field this week in Kingston, he instead goes to Portland to play on the Web.com Tour and try to make the playoffs there. He’ll need a top-five finish, otherwise, he’ll play in the remaining Mackenzie Tour tournaments.
Thanks to CTV Ottawa for having me on Sunday night to chat about the Mackenzie Tour. Click here for my clip.