On a wet and windy day at Uplands Golf Club, the Calgary native opened with a 5-under 65 to get the early jump in the Tours first Canadian event of the year. Canadians Mike Mezei, Ray Stewart and Philip Jonas sit one stroke back along with Robert Hamilton and Craig Kanada. Seven others opened with a 67.
Heffernan, the 1999 Canadian amateur runner-up, spent the past three seasons traveling with Hearn, the defending champion in Victoria. Shortly after his first Canadian Tour triumph on Vancouver Island last summer, Hearn captured the Nationwide Tours Alberta Classic.
Four months later, Hearn punched his ticket onto the PGA Tour.
On Thursday, as Heffernan stepped up to the first tee in British Columbia, Hearn was on the other side of the continent, taking his swings with the top players on the planet at the U.S. Open.
It was awesome having your good friend going from here to the PGA Tour so quickly, said Heffernan. I wouldnt mind rooming with David again'out there (on the PGA).
Despite not playing a practice round, Heffernan, who arrived early Thursday morning after playing in the Alberta Open, tamed the 6,420-yard layout for his best round of the year. Heffernan drove the par-4 8th and cashed in a birdie putt. On the inbound nine he drained three birdie putts from off the fringe.
I was strong off the tee, hit some great approach shots and putted well, he added. I havent done that in a while.
Mezei, a former Canadian amateur standout who is coming off an appearance for Canada at last months Four Nations Cup, is playing in his first Tour event as a professional, less than a week after earning his playing card at Spring Qualifying School.
As far as debuts go, they dont get a whole lot better.
It was a solid round, said Mezei. Its a great golf course, and I was able to hit a lot of fairways.
Hamilton, the 2001 U.S. amateur runner-up, finished second to Patrick Damron two years ago at this event and will be taking aim at his first Tour title over the next three days. Starting his day on the back nine, Hamilton recovered from back-to-back bogeys with an eagle on the par-5 7th when he converted a 45-foot putt.
At any level, its always important to bring your A-game every day, reasoned Hamilton. With the type of players you have here, you dont want to get behind the eight-ball early on. Im excited about the start, but Ill have to come out tomorrow and try to go lower.
If the youth movement at the top of the leaderboard represented a changing of the guard Thursday, someone forgot to tell Jonas and Stewart. There is 44 years of professional experience between the two of them and the duo seems intent on giving their younger colleagues a run for their money this weekend.
Jonas, the 2000 QuebecTel champion, spends most of his time these days teaching golf but is showing he still has the game to compete. He also opened with a 66 the last time the event was staged at the Uplands in 2002, eventually winding up 23rd.
In 1997, Jonas held a two-shot lead in Victoria late on Sunday before incurring a one-stroke penalty when his ball moved on the fairway as he addressed his shot. Clearly rattled, Jonas would place second to fellow Canadian Rick Todd.
These days, life is a whole lot less stressful.
Its almost easier for me now, admitted Jonas. I just go out there and play and see where it takes me. Maybe if I am in contention Sunday, Ill get a little nervous. Im not going to worry about that right now.