For award-winning songwriter Tom Cochrane, the refrain from his 1991 worldwide hit “Life is a Highway” is apropos. Travel and lifelong experiences drive Tom Cochrane’s inspiration.

On February 10, Cochrane released Take It Home, his first album of new material since 2006’s No Stranger. The disc is a cohesive collection of 11 songs that beg listeners to pack their bags and renew their passports. From Austin, Texas, to Ontario’s Georgian Bay and far-flung locales like Africa, Cochrane shares stories of people he’s met and experiences that have touched his heart. The record reflects the rock ’n’ roll hobo tradition epitomized by Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. The catchy opener “I Can’t Stay Here” speaks to this restlessness.

“That tradition is still out there,” says Cochrane. “A lot of this record relates to travelling; it’s also a spiritual journey.”

One of the more poignant cuts, “A Prayer for Hope” was inspired by a World Vision-backed trip to Africa six years ago. “We met Margaret there, a mother dying of AIDS. We couldn’t do anything for her, other than pray,” says Cochrane, who captures his encounter with the lyrics: “Margaret sits by the hill and stares at her children, wonders what they’ll do when she’s gone.”

“I like to tell stories, I like songs that touch people in whatever way. It’s got to mean something,” says Cochrane, who started out as a folk singer/songwriter in Toronto in the 1970s, then toured the globe with his band Red Rider into the mid ’80s before his 1991 album Mad Mad World and its anthemic hit “Life is a Highway” made him a household name.

Asked to name a favourite locale, Cochrane cites a memorable gig in Germany. “We played this amphitheatre at Lorelei, which is high on a cliff, towering above the narrowest point of the Rhine River. I remember looking down at the old curve in the river as the sun was setting behind the stage…it was magical.”

To promote Take It Home, the restless rocker plans to hit the road again for a cross-Canada tour. He also plans to play some summer festivals.

“You’ve got to get out and play live,” says Cochrane. “I enjoy it. I went through a whole period where the magic was making records and I was terrified of performing. I can’t pinpoint the precise time when that changed, but people started responding to more than one of my songs, and I thought ‘This is fun…This is what it’s all about.”

Sixteen Canadians Take Their Shot at Joining Pat Fletcher

In most sports, home-court or home-field advantage — with fans cheering your every move — is the deciding factor that makes an athlete, or team, rise to victory. We’ve certainly seen that the past two weeks with Canada’s record performance at the Pan Am Games.

So, why is this not usually the case in golf? Sure rowdy crowds during team events such as the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup, often help, but what about all those decked out in red and white at the RBC Canadian Open, which returns to Glen Abbey this week?

The pressure is more than most Canadian pro golfers can handle. It’s now been 61 years since Pat Fletcher won our national Open. Imagine the euphoria and swelling of national pride if one of our own won this week.

With 16 Canadians teeing it up at Glen Abbey – which will host the tournament for the 27th time – there’s a good chance this drought could finally be snapped. And the tournament organizers, as Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reported this week, are doing what they can to give the “hometown” contingent an advantage over their international competitors.

First-year tournament director Brent McLaughlin heard from players that there’s not enough “Canadiana” at the RBC Canadian Open. They’ll get their wish on the course this week with the addition of many Canadian flags, including a 30-by-15-feet one behind the 18th green.

It’s all an effort to make the Canadian Open more Canadian.

“I think we’ve struck a balance of the Canadiana,” McLaughlin said in a phone interview last week. “We’ve lost touch with kind of the stuff that makes us uniquely Canadian: the Mounties and kind of those stereotypes that you always hear.

“I know we don’t like it when it’s talked about about us, but it’s nice when we can sort of say, ‘Yeah, you’re in Canada. It’s a little bit different here.'”

Graham DeLaet – a little jet-lagged after a Monday finish at the Open Championship – comes to the Abbey at No. 84 in the world golf rankings. DeLaet and David Hearn both arrive in Oakville, Ont., in fine form. DeLaet finished fourth at the Travelers Championship a few weeks back and Hearn had his best finish of the season with a runner-up at The Greenbrier Classic a fortnight ago.

Other Canadians to watch this week include PGA Tour rookies Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, and Roger Sloan. Hadwin is no stranger to the Open, but this is his first time playing as a full-time Tour member.

“Normally this event is a bit of a one-off for me,” Hadwin told reporters Tuesday. “To come in having played a full season on the PGA Tour thus far and having come in as a full member, it’s a little bit different, but at the same time, it’s sort of the same. I’m going through the same procedures to prepare for the event, and I’m looking forward to a great week here at Glen Abbey.”

Some of the young guns in the 156-player field are: long-hitting Taylor Pendrith, Adam Svensson, Garrett Rank, Corey Conners and amateur Austin Connelly (who finished fifth in the Pan Am Games last week).

A notable Canadian missing is fan favourite Mike Weir. The Canadian Golf Hall of Famer announced last week he would not be at Glen Abbey this week (which would have been his 25th Canadian Open appearance) due to personal reasons. He’s taking an extended leave from the game.

While there is no Weir, all of the red and white flags and homer crowd in attendance at the Abbey is sure to give the rest of the Canadians a boost, and just maybe that’s the extra edge to snap that 61-year drought.

“When you have so many people pulling for you, behind you, wanting you to do well, if you’re a little bit down and you hit a good shot and they go crazy, it’s certainly helpful to pick you back up,” Hadwin said. “When you’re playing well, you sort of ride the momentum of the fans and the crowd. You see it all the time in other sports where one team is down, their home crowd gets excited, they get cheered and you can kind of ride that momentum.

“I think you can do that here. Especially if you got into contention on the back nine on Sunday, I think it will be a huge help and huge bonus to have that many people behind you and want to see you win.”

Serena Ryder: Is It O.K.

“I’ve been broken too, how about you?” That’s the theme of Ryder’s new record. Following the success of If Your Memory Serves You Well, which went gold and won a Juno, the 25-year-old returns with a disc that oozes angst. The cathartic collection finds the singer with a broken heart searching for the “truth” that exists deep within us all.” Rather than running from it, she confronts it with music. Right from opener “Sweeping the Ashes,”” one feels this anger and sadness, and these feelings are sustained throughout the remaining 12 songs. Closer “Dark as the Black”” epitomizes the emptiness Ryder felt when she penned these songs. The melancholic, acoustically-inclined ballad, with its “one world/one love”” message of hope, hints at U2 and Bob Marley. And, like those prophetic artists, Ryder shows the world is in pain through well-crafted lyrics. She sings, “There’s a crack in the ground from old New York all the way to Minnesota/I can hear by the way 10,000 lakes are screaming for more water.”” Ryder’’s message is that our world is like our broken hearts: it’’s cracked and can’’t be mended until we acknowledge its sickness. Deep, yes, but delivered with her world-weary voice it’’s a message that hits home, showing the continuing maturation of this expressive songwriter.

Why is this record filled with so much angst?
It’’s based on things I’’ve experienced in the last little while. The world only caters to the fact that people are supposed to be happy and enjoy life, and sadness and anger are not really dealt with. It’’s a painful world; there are a lot of things going on in the world that are really painful. There are a lot of broken hearts walking around in denial. I noticed in myself there was a lot of that going on. It was okay to be happy but it wasn’t okay to be sad. It’’s one of those things that before the beginning of time, you just want to be happy all the time and I think the only way to achieve that true satisfaction with your life is to acknowledge your true feelings. This is a record of acknowledging where I was coming from and what I was going through at the time. It’’s been a very successful couple of years and I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do with my life: perform, live and tour around the world and play music. How great could that be? It’’s been amazing but then there have been all these ideals that can be shattered, like the idea that being a touring musician is a dream and it’’s all just a party and a lot of fun. But there is another side to it. You are going out there and sharing your very personal, true places of yourself with other people in the hopes that you can connect and communicate and feel like you are part of the same family. There is nothing like having someone know where you are coming from but that can also be painful to consciously be in that conversation.

It’’s a little ironic then that Is It O.K. was recorded at the same studio where Rumors was born.
Absolutely. I was down to two producers for the record, both who I really loved. They were awesome people and I couldn’t choose between them. I was out with one of them and I sent a little message out to the universe while he was up getting our food. “You have to help me out here, universe, and let me know if this is or isn’t the producer I’’m going to be working with,” I asked.” He sat back down, we started talking and I said my favourite record is Fleetwood Mac’’s Rumors and he said, “no way, that was recorded in my studio,”” so it was a done deal. Another of my favourite producers, T-Bone Burnett has a space in his studio as well. Later, I learned the Maharajah recorded there with the Beatles and the Stones; it was pretty awesome.

Did you feel like you were channelling Stevie Nicks a little?
Not really but I definitely felt the history in the building. There was a magic that was there that you could almost catch it and taste it. The history in a building is something I have always been intrigued with and I’’ve always been pulled to; I can feel the energy of what has gone on before. When I got there I definitely felt that and it was a huge inspiration. Recording the songs in Stevie Nicks’’ vocal booth was absolutely surreal; they lit candles for me and there were stained glass and mirrors everywhere. It was a total throwback; it was amazing. It felt like a vacation to me, like I was inside a movie.

What’’s the significance of the title, Is It Ok?
It’s really about connecting, taking the time to connect with that inner voice to really find the truth to what is going on outside of you. You need to take time and make space to have quiet time and listen to that part of yourself to see what’’s going on and live a life of truth.

Tell me about album closer “Dark as the Black.”
I wrote several of those songs after I had just lost someone in my life who was really close to me. Bonnie O’Donnell, who was my co-manager; she was an amazing woman, died young of pneumonia at 32. It was very sudden and very tragic. It totally threw my world for an absolute loop and still has. It’’s very odd to not have her around because we worked together for about six years and we were close friends. That led to an onset with a lot of my connection with sadness and darkness. That particular song starts out about a relationship and how there is sadness when you have your heart broken. Then, the second verse is about that relationship in regards to the place you are at in your life: your relationship with your surroundings, your home. The last verse is about how that is a total microcosm of how the world works and how the world is in a lot of pain. Yes, there is a lot of good in the world and a lot of amazing things happening but there is this overriding sadness and sickness that is happening and has been for a long time. You can’t get any darker than a really deep hole. You can’’t see the end of it [but] it just needs a little spark of light to change it. Everything in the world that is alive has a voice and that’s the line about “10,000 lakes screaming for more water.” Connecting our personal experience in our body to that of the world, it is really the same thing. We can find all the answers to what is going on out there inside ourselves and that can be really painful, but I think that is the most important and courageous thing that we can do.

You’’re already a seasoned songwriter at 25. Do you have any reflections on your career?
The more I do this the younger I feel because there is that saying, and I don’t even know if it is a real saying, but it’’s something I thought of that I’’m sure has been out there for a long time: the more that I’m alive the less I know and the more I think I know the less I know. I’m finding that with being a musician and touring and just being alive in these times.

There are photos of Toronto’’s Dakota Tavern in the liner notes. Any significance?
Dear friends of mine own it and I was there a few days after they opened it. I was sad I missed the exact opening day, as I was on tour. It means a lot to me. That’’s where I go when I want to see my friends when I’’m home from tour because I know they’’ll be there.

A close shave for Graham DeLaet to grab an Open Championship spot

From Fear the Beard to Shear the Beard. Sometimes, as the saying goes, a change will do you good. Graham DeLaet can attest to this adage. His decision to shave off his facial hair certainly played a mental role in the Canadian’s play this past weekend at The Travelers Championship.

“I was playing some bad golf this year, so I kind of just needed a change,” DeLaet told the Hartford Courant last weekend about this new look.

That change — and more importantly his improved on-course play — contributed to DeLaet’s best finish of the season: fourth place at The Travelers at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. It was his first top-10 finish since February. While that first PGA Tour win continues to elude the Canadian, he can take a lot of positives from this performance.

Despite getting off to a sluggish start with a double-bogey at the opening hole and finishing his round with a bogey Sunday, DeLaet produced four birdies in between to finish with a one-under-par 69. Watch his beautiful approach on the 71st hole.

With the top five finish, the Weyburn, Sask. native vaulted 20 spots in the FedEx Cup race — from 103 to 83 — and he’s also closing in on $1 million in earnings for the season ($942,167). Most important, he punched his ticket for The Open next month at the home of golf – St Andrews.

DeLaet entered the Travelers Championship ranked No. 92 in the world rankings. Since only the top 50 as of mid-May get an automatic entry into the British Open, he had to play his way into (the four highest finishes by golfers not otherwise qualified at the Travelers received exemptions) the major. The 33-year-old was the highest finisher without a spot already locked up, so that’s not a bad consolation prize. The Canadian makes his third consecutive appearance at The Open.

Here’s what he told The after getting the invite:

“I was standing on the 18th tee knowing that I had the third spot in The Open. When I hit my tee shot in the bunker all I could think was, ‘I really hope this doesn’t cost me my spot’. But it ended up being just enough. It’s an awesome Championship and it’s at the home of golf so I can still leave here with a smile on my face.”

Oh Canada, we stand on the tee for thee

Looking beyond DeLaet, the top Canadians in the FedEx Cup race are: Nick Taylor (85) and David Hearn (88). Besides this trio, more homegrown players than ever are teeing it up most weeks on the PGA TOUR including: Mike Weir, Adam Hadwin, Brad Fritsch, and Roger Sloan, but the top-10 results are not there.

It’s just the nature of golf. The difference between the top 50 and top 150 is a couple more bogeys on the card, a few wayward drives, and some missed putts. Those tend to be the result of mental mistakes. Several of the Candadians are closing in on $1 million in earnings or have already surpassed that figure (Taylor thanks to his win last fall at the Sanderson Farms). Many a 9 to 5er would be happy with that kind of money for eight months’ work.

Hearn not taking his foot off the pedal despite homecoming

While the Pan Am Games-related traffic jams scared Canadian David Hearn from sleeping at his parents’ this week in Brantford, Ont. (where he grew up), he’ll still feel many of the same creature comforts.

“This is as close as we get to me being at home,” said Hearn on Wednesday, whose best finish on the PGA TOUR this year was a runner-up at The Greenbrier Classic two weeks ago, where he lost in a playoff. “I obviously get a lot more friends and family coming out to watch. It’s fun to play golf in front of everyone.”

Before the real golf begins Thursday, Hearn took time to give back to the local community by announcing the launch of a new charitable foundation. The David Hearn Foundation will support the Alzheimer Society in improving the quality of life for Canadians affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, with initiatives to build awareness and raise funds.

“I’ve had a relationship with the Alzheimer’s Society for a number of years now,” he explained. “We’ve been raising money through a golf tournament that I host after the Canadian Open every year. To finally take that next step and form a foundation it means a lot to me to be at that point in my career where I can give back and do charitable things through this foundation.

“It’s been a lot of hard work getting it going,” he added. “But we’re excited about it, and I’m excited about putting in time and giving back and the efforts that we can do through the foundation.”

After more than 150 events, Hearn is still searching for that elusive first PGA Tour win; for him, winning any tournament is his top goal. He’ll begin this quest on Thursday when he tees off at 12:35 p.m. with Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas and American Kevin Chappell. And, if that victory came this week — on home soil —it would just make it that much more sweet.

“Winning the RBC Canadian Open would mean a lot, without a doubt,” said Hearn. “Winning any PGA Tour tournament would mean a lot. It just doesn’t happen that often. To be able to do it in Canada in front of everybody here would be the highlight of my career. We’ll see what we can do.”

Bobby Long: A Winter’s Tale

Every day songwriters send their songs out to the world. Usually it’s the voice that grabs you and makes you listen longer. That’s the case with this new voice from across the pond. From the moment Bobby Long’s songs burst from the speakers, you are captivated with the world-weary, blues-soaked tones that this young songwriter possesses. Think the soul of John Lee Hooker mixed with the storytelling knack of Bob Dylan. His poetic songs paint pictures of the universal landscapes we inhabit and the daily sins we commit. Like Henry David Thoreau, Long seeks inspiration from nature and from the ghosts and words on the page of writers’ past. Produced by Grammy-winner Liam Watson (the White Stripes’ Elephant), A Winter’s Tale features an all-star backing band and a live-off-the-floor feel. With a mournful, hypnotic guitar driving this journey, Long lets his words float in the spaces in between the instruments; his simple observations capture large landscapes, tackling life, loss and love. The bluesy “Who Have You Been Loving?” speaks to an unfaithful act and features lovely backing vocals. Long repeatedly questions the faithfulness of a lover and puts the onus on the one who wronged him to “owe an apology.” Listen to this voice. Let its soul seep into your soul. It’s time well spent.

Your blues influences really come out on this record. How did you become attracted to the blues growing up in England?
My dad was into it. I really liked it. When I first picked up my guitar, I discovered you can learn so much from blues players. It’s a sinful form of music and there is so much emotion in it. The lyrics, with topics such as “this woman’s left me” or “the devil’ or ‘drinking,” all that kind of stuff, as a kid, I found cool and exciting. The stories of the artists, such as Robert Johnson and SunHouse, felt otherworldly; I felt like these guys were from another planet.

Did you channel that otherworldliness into your music?
It’s had a lyrical effect, for sure. Topics like your girlfriend leaving you, not having any money and somehow being oppressed, those subjects all come out on A Winter’s Tale.

Any particular songs that are more soaked in this blues influence than others?
“Who Have you Been Loving?” asks that blues-kind of message. I think of the blues as you versus the world; I felt that way with that song. As a songwriter, you always feel like it’s you against the world.

The Best Golf Courses in the World

Want to go on a sporting adventure this year? Then hit the fairways at these five world-renowned locales.
Golf is more than just a game. It allows players to fulfill an inner wanderlust and seek adventure near and far. Whether you’re trying to get away from the winter or need a place to unwind in the summer, there’s no better time to plan your next golf escape. From exotic locales to seaside stunners and mountain adventures, there’s no end to unforgettable courses to be discovered across the globe. Here are five bucket-list-worthy suggestions to get you started.

Cabot Cliffs, Inverness, Nova Scotia
Cabot Cliffs
Cabot Cliffs only opened for limited preview play this past summer, but already it has topped most golf magazines’ world’s-best-courses lists. While the destination is remote, for serious golfers it’s well worth a long road trip, or a short-haul flight, to lap up the beauty of Canada’s only true links experience. Set along the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Inverness, Cape Breton, Cabot offers not one, but a pair of spectacular courses. The Cliffs features several holes that hug the side of the seawall. One reviewer captured this bucket-list experience perfectly, dubbing it “Pebble Beach on steroids!”

Four Seasons Nevis, St. Kitts/Nevis, West Indies

Opened in 1991, this course, designed by famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., is a West Indies wonder. Part of a five-star Four Seasons retreat, the course offers stunning panoramas of the resort, the Caribbean Sea and the neighbouring island of St. Kitts. Hit a 7-iron into the green while playful vervet monkeys wrestle across the fairways – commenting on your shot in their expressive language in between munches of mangos. After your round, enjoy a cocktail in the Library Bar or on the Ocean Terrace.

Laucala, Fiji
Laucala Island
Set amid volcanic mountains and clinging to a straight-edged cliff that drops into the Pacific Ocean, this private island refuge in the South Pacific was the brainchild of Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of Red Bull. The resort features 25 Fijian-style villas nestled among coconut plantations and deserted beaches, with views of colourful coral reefs and endless jungles. The signature hole is the par-five 12th, where the green extends to the beach – expect to wet your feet at high tide. When not golfing, sip some rum, get chauffeured by boat to a secluded beach where a masseuse and a champagne lunch await, or simply enjoy the solitude in your private villa, which starts at US$5,000 a night.

Legend Golf Safari Resort, Bosveld, South Africa

Situated in the heart of the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in South Africa, the resort is home to one of the globe’s most unique golfing experiences. Every hole was designed by a different gold legend, such as Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Bernard Langer. The real reason to visit, however, is to experience the famous par 3 known as the Extreme 19th. The hole is the world’s longest par 3, measuring 391 yards. The kicker: You can only access the tee by helicopter, as the hole sits atop South Africa’s Hanglip Mountain. At 400 metres high, it is also the globe’s tallest hole. Fly into Pretoria and drive north, or hire a private jet to land at the resort.

Telluride Golf Club, Telluride, Colorado

Imagine golfing at an altitude of almost 3,000 metres surrounded by aspen trees changing colour by the minute in the autumn morning light. Most people think of Telluride as a ski village, but it’s much more than that – the mountain golf is stunning, with postcard vistas greeting you at every turn and on every tee. Telluride is set amid the highest concentration of 4,200-metre-plus peaks in North America. The first tee is 2,870 metres above sea level, an altitude that puts Telluride Golf Club among the highest golf courses in the world. Stay on-site at the Peaks Resort and hit the spa post-golf to unwind and quiet your mind. You can also head down the San Miguel River and try fly fishing. At night, take the gondola from the Mountain Village down to the historic town of Telluride. Stroll the streets, where there are no stoplights. Stop at the New Sheridan Hotel, which has a historic watering hole where you are sure to meet colourful locals – like the town’s gravedigger – and hear their tales over a Colorado craft brew. Fly into Montrose with direct service from nine major cities, including Atlanta, Newark, Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Canadian golfer Corey Conners ramping up for Latinoamerica Tour

The odds are in Corey Conners’ favour he’ll make some noise this season on PGA Tour Latinoamérica. You don’t need a university degree in actuarial mathematics (as Connors does) to understand the probabilities are better than good for the Canadian golfer’s long-term success.

The 24-year-old finished 37th on the the Mackenzie Tour’s Order of Merit in 2015, including two top-10 finishes in his eight events. Conners also played in six PGA Tour events on sponsor exemptions. The Listowel, Ont., native turned pro midway through last season, shortly after playing the Masters as an amateur (he earned an invitation based on his runner-up finish at the 2014 U.S. Amateur). While he missed the cut at Augusta, he took a lot away.

“It was quite a thrill to play there,” Conners said. “I had an incredible experience and definitely gained a lot of confidence. I feel more comfortable at other events now, largely due to that experience.”

Earlier this month, the Team Canada Young Pro Squad Member added more confidence when he posted rounds of 74-67-67-70 to take medalist honours at the PGA Tour Latinoamérica Q-School, winning by two strokes. Conners is now one step closer to achieving his dream of playing full-time on the PGA Tour. First he needs to finish in the Top Five on the Latinoamérica Tour or the MacKenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada (where he still holds exempt status) to earn his Tour card.

Last fall, Conners played in four Latinoamérica events, getting a taste for the competition. “It was pretty cool to travel to some new places and play golf,” he said. “I feel I can do really well on that tour.”

First things first: it’s time to rack up the frequent flyer points. On Feb. 25, the Latinoamérica season begins in Medellin, Colombia, from where four-time PGA Tour winner Camilo Villegas hails. Until then, Conners will work on honing all aspects of his game with Canada national head coach Derek Ingram.

“Since Q-school, I’ve been taking it easy, playing some fun rounds with friends down in Florida, but I will start preparing and fine-tuning my game in the coming weeks,” he said. “I want to work on my long-iron play … getting my three-wood up in the air more from the fairway.”

Earlier this month, Ingram showed his excitement for his pupil on social media, via this Tweet:

When you prepare well & it works out, it feels great! Congrats @coreconn on winning @PGATOUR_LA #QSchool @TheGolfCanada #playreflectlearn

No matter where he tees it up next, Conners hopes to seek inspiration from the success of his fellow Canucks.

“It’s exciting to see a lot of Canadian guys do well and it’s motivating to try to join guys like Adam Hadwin on the PGA TOUR,” he said. “A lot of my close friends are out on the Tour this year; hopefully I can get out there and join them soon … I feel my game is in really good shape.”

Els, Quinn: Caddie shared success in unique way

Of the two caddies that Ernie Els employs during the year, Ricci Roberts was on the bag last week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes when Els claimed his second British Open title. But don’t feel too bad for the other guy.

Several hours after Els hoisted the Claret Jug on Sunday in England, Dan Quinn won The American Century Championship — a celebrity tournament; Quinn is a former NHL player — across the pond at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Club in Nevada to complete one of golf’s most unique daily doubles.

The two are reunited at this week’s RBC Canadian Open. On the car ride Wednesday to Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Els and Quinn discussed the fact that it wasn’t the first time they had won both events on the same day.

“He started winning that tournament 20 years ago; he won there in 1992, and also in 2002 when I won my other Open,” Els said. “Then, I win the Open this year and he wins the same tournament also in the same year …

“It’s funny how things come together.”

Quinn watched early action of the British Open on Sunday before heading out to his tournament. While Els made a back-nine charge and took advantage of Adam Scott’s collapse down the stretch, Quinn followed a few hours later by overtaking former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien to win the event in Tahoe.

“The players at the British Open teed off at 6:10 a.m. my time, so I would wake up, have breakfast and then watch three hours of golf before getting ready to play my game,” Quinn said. “I didn’t see the final putt or final hole as I was playing, but it was a special day I’ll never forget.

“He’s such a great player,” Quinn said about Els. “I was so happy for him after all the hard work that he’s put in.”

Els and Quinn became friends through their daughters, golf, and a couple of barbecues. This later led to a caddying gig that became serious in 2010 when Quinn did a full-time share with Roberts — each of them working 14 events for Els that year.

What some may not know is that Quinn was a key cog in the Calgary Flames’ run to the Stanley Cup in 1986, and later played alongside Mario Lemieux with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now the Canadian is back in his home country in hopes of extending Els’ winning streak in national opens to two consecutive weeks.

“It’s going to be great to have Dan back and listen to him,” Els said. “It will be a nice change of scenery.”

Quinn admitted he’s feeling a bit more pressure this week following Els’ major victory. By the time they hit the first tee on Thursday, however, he’s sure his nerves, and any butterflies his boss may have, will settle fast.

“Once Ernie and I get out there, he hits that first ball and we get inside the ropes where he’s the most comfortable, we will be fine,” Quinn said.

After a celebration with his family and friends in London on Sunday — and a day of rest Monday sleeping in and hanging out with his kids — Els arrived at the Hamilton course by helicopter Tuesday afternoon to play five holes.

On Wednesday morning, he played with Gord Nixon, President and CEO of RBC, the sponsor of Canada’s national open and one of Els’ main sponsors.

The 19-time PGA TOUR winner has never seen the historic Hamilton Golf & Country Club before this week. Neither he, nor his caddie consider it a negative factor.

“A lot of times if you haven’t played a course you don’t know where the trouble is,” Els joked. “Maybe that’s a good thing. You get your yardage, you hit your spots and from there you go to your next spots.”

While the course is not familiar to Quinn, he’s happy to be in well-known surroundings this week.

“My mom, brother, sister, and a lot of my friends live in the area,” Quinn said. “Growing up, I was a huge golf fan and I used to watch in person when the Canadian Open was played at Glen Abbey for years.

“Last year, to be inside the ropes at Shaughnessy and then Hamilton this year, feels great. I’m really excited about the week.”

After this week, Quinn will carry Els’ bag for the next three weeks, including the last major of the year — the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

The Big Easy a bit uneasy to open RBC Canadian Open

Despite Hamilton Golf & Country Club being set up for low scores — major thunderstorms softened up the course the night before — Ernie Els just couldn’t find his rhythm on Thursday in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open.

While Scott Piercy shot a course-record 62, Els struggled to find the steady swing that helped him win the Claret Jug last weekend.

“It’s a scoring golf course if you get it in play, which I didn’t do enough of today,” Els said after carding a 2-over round of 72.

Despite the score, Els was all smiles. Playing alongside friends Vijay Singh and Matt Kuchar, he exchanged many laughs and plenty of casual conversation with his playing partners.

The problem was his shots found the rough too often, which cost him a few strokes, especially on the 481-yard 11th, where he made a triple-bogey; his caddie Dan Quinn called it “a little meltdown.”

Els was scratching his head and shaking it a lot on Thursday afternoon. After several missed putts that came up just short, he shared this frustration with Quinn.

On Wednesday, the pair admitted they knew little about the Hamilton layout. It looked that way for most of the day, as they were feeling their way around, relying too much on the yardage books, rather than on experience. Many shots were left behind the hole, which are difficult on the severely-sloped greens.

“As much as we thought we could do it, this golf course is tough to play blind,” Quinn said. “I think Ernie can shoot a good score now that he has seen the course once though.”

Els also looked tired as he walked the fairways alongside Quinn. One wondered if jet lag was a factor, but the South African said fatigue was not an issue. He shot even-par 35 going out; and, while it looked like he might finish eagle-birdie-birdie to get close to even par for the day, a chip, and a couple putts came up just short.

On 17, his second shot hit the spectators’ box and dropped down pin-high in the rough. Els then flopped a beautiful chip from two-inch rough that just missed falling for eagle, despite a little dance he did trying to coax the ball in. Instead, a tap-in birdie was the result.

Then, on the final hole, after a long drive down the right-hand side of the fairway, Els hit his approach to 10 feet. Walking up to the green, the British Open champion received loud roars and shouts of “Canada loves you Ernie!” Ever gracious, he doffed his cap, and waved to the crowd.

After Els signed his card, The Big Easy stopped to sign hats and flags en route to the range where he hit a few balls, trying to find that sweet, easy-flowing swing again.

“It’s not that I didn’t have some great chances,” Els said. “I was just a bit sluggish today … trying to find that rhythm to my swing that I had last Sunday at the British Open. But, it wasn’t quite there today.”