Gillespie Hopes Second-Place Finish Sign Of Things To Come


The early stages of Derek Gillespie's 2001 and 2002 seasons closely mirror one another.
Gillespie is hoping that is where the similarities end.
One year ago, the 23-year-old Oshawa, Ontario, native kicked off his Canadian Tour career in grand style, winding up tied for second at the season-opening Myrtle Beach Open. It would turn out to be the highlight in what at times was a frustrating rookie campaign. While there would be no other top-10 results, Gillespie still managed some impressive numbers - 37th on the Tour's money list, Canadian Rookie of the Year accolades, a 71.33 stroke average, eight of 14 cuts made and a berth in the Bell Canadian Open.
But after starting on such a positive note, he admits the letdown of not being able to build on it got inside his head.
'After the good start in Myrtle Beach, the rest of the year didn't go how I had planned,' concedes the former Arizona State star. 'But it was my first year, the travel, the new courses, it was new to me and took some getting used to. But I know I can win - I just have to relax a bit more out there.'
Gillespie certainly looked relaxed at the Scottsdale Swing at Eagle Mountain, firing a final round 64 to finish second to Texan Jimmy Walker. The way he was rolling the pill Sunday, it may have been a case of Gillespie simply running out of holes. Walker didn't crack under the pressure as he nailed down his first pro win.
'Right from the start Sunday, I was thinking this could be the day,' says Gillespie of the final round. 'I was thinking 62, and that was the number in my head. But I am happy for Jimmy. To be honest, I had never heard of him before last weekend, but he deserved the win. I played with him on the Saturday and he wasn't missing anything.'
It's been said that nobody remembers who finished second, but in this game, that isn't the case. Golf is a game that revolves around confidence and momentum and right now, Derek Gillespie seems to be riding an abundance of both.
'I think this may be a breakthrough season for me. I've matured both on and off the course. I can't wait to get to Mexico and try again. Now I am going to go in with the attitude of winning the tournament every week. If I don't play how I can, I just have to pull myself out of it. We all go through it.'
His runner-up result in Scottsdale was the best showing by a Canadian so far in 2002. As one of Canada's rising stars, Gillespie is appreciative of the support he has received in his native land, but he will not put himself on anyone else's timetable. His is the only schedule that matters.
'A Canadian winning on the Canadian Tour is rare, but I don't think about it,' he stresses. 'I have to worry about my game. There are a lot of great players on this Tour, and I have to stay focused. The way this year has gone, you shoot 1 or 2-under and you're not even close.'