In whispered circles, conventional thinking seems to be that Derek Gillespie will be the next player from north of the border to make his mark it in the PGA ranks. Just don't say it too loud-at least when Gillespie is around.
Now in his first full season on the Canadian Tour, the 22-year-old Oshawa, ON native fired a 3-under-par 68 Sunday in the final round of the Myrtle Beach Open at Barefoot Resort's Tom Fazio course. Finishing with a four-day total of 280, Gillespie wound up the Tour's initial event of the season in a four-way tie for second spot, three strokes behind winner Eamonn Brady of Ireland.
While a promising future on the links seems like a safe bet, the 5'9, 175-pound Gillespie avoids the inevitable comparisons to players such as Mike Weir, who, after coming off the Canadian Tour in 1997, has quickly evolved into one of the PGA Tour's brightest stars.
'I don't think about that (the comparisons), I'm just trying to improve my game,' reasoned Gillespie, who was the low Canadian at the 2000 Bell Canadian Open, finishing in a tie for 42nd. 'Going out on the course everyday makes me happy. I love the sport and that is all I am thinking about right now.'
After playing in a trio of Tour events last year, Gillespie qualified for the 2001 Tour after finishing in a second-place deadlock at last fall's Q-school, one stroke behind winner Dean North. On Sunday, in the wind and rain that had been so evident at Barefoot since Thursday's opening round, Gillespie stalked the leaders all day before finally moving to within a stroke of Brady as he teed it up on 17. A bogey later, Gillespie's hopes for a season-opening title were dashed when his tee shot on 18 skipped off the edge of the fairway and came to rest floating awkwardly in the drink. Gillespie waded into the water, shoes and all, and hit the ball back onto the fairway before finally settling for another bogey heading home.
'The way the ball was sitting up in the water, I thought I could hit the green,' he added. 'On that tee shot, I was aiming right but I pulled it about ten feet. To win a tournament, the breaks have to go your way and that didn't happen for me today.'
If his final round Sunday is any indication, we may be hearing a lot more from Derek Gillespie in the future. But for the time being, don't cast comparisons. He just wants to enjoy the game for the time being.