SPORTS

Canadian golfer Austin Connelly aiming big

07/19/2015 07:42 EDT | Updated 07/19/2016 05:59 EDT
For such a little guy, Austin Connelly has huge dreams.

"I want to be the No. 1 golfer in the world," said the 18-year-old Texan who stands 5-foot-7, weighs 120 pounds and represented Canada in men's golf, along with Garrett Rank, at the Pan Am Games.

Connelly finished fifth at minus-8 at Angus Glen, five shots behind gold-medal winner Marcelo Rozo of Columbia, who shot minus-13. Rank finished 15th at minus-5.

While Connelly was not one of the long hitters in the Pan Am Games, he certainly hits his drives farther than the average golfer.

"The firmer it gets for me, the longer I hit it," Connelly said. "I do hit it pretty far for my weight."

Not crushing the ball like some of the longer drivers puts him at a slight disadvantage, but he said there are ways to make up for a lack of distance off the tee.

"Hitting fairways out here is really important when the rough starts getting [thick]," Connelly said. "One of my strengths is I do hit a lot of fairways. I do have to make up for the lack of distance by being really, really good inside 150 yards and having good direction control with all my clubs. I don't have quite as many gimme birdies as some of the other guys who can knock on every par five in two no matter what the length of the hole."

Connelly was born in Dallas and raised in Irving, Texas, but spent most of his summers visiting his grandparents, Bill and Delores Connelly, in Digby County, N.S. Connelly's father's side of the family comes from Nova Scotia. As a dual citizen, he elected to identify as a Canadian in the golf world.

"I am pretty sure at some point in every summer I spent time in Canada," Connelly said. "Obviously as my game has progressed the last few years I haven't spent quite as much time in Nova Scotia because I have been playing tournament after tournament in the summertime."

Pro dreams

In fact, it was in Canada that Connelly first burst onto the golf scene. As a 14-year-old he gained notoriety when he finished tied for 22nd at the 2010 Canadian Junior Boys' Championship against golfers three and four years older than himself. A year later Connelly won the Nova Scotia Midget Boys' Championship by 10 strokes.

Connelly is currently ranked No. 17 in the world among amateur golfers and will play in the RBC Canadian Open next this week.

Playing as a Canadian, Connelly will have more opportunities to represent his country in international events as a professional golfer. But that's not why he plays as a Canadian.

"Honestly, it has nothing to do with international events," Connelly said. "It is a little perk that I didn't realize until I got going through the process. It has a lot to do with the support Canada gives its athletes. I feel Golf Canada has done a great job in developing young golfers."

In an effort to turn pro, Connelly plans to attend the PGA Tour's Qualifying School as soon as he can. He is exempt through pre-qualifying because he made the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship, but there is a chance he might do the European Tour School, so he is not certain about what comes next in his effort to turn pro.

"I want to be out there [as a pro] as soon as possible," Connelly said.

Connelly was mostly pleased with his Pan Am Games showing.

"Overall I'm fairly happy with the way I played," Connelly said. "I'm still not hitting it the way I normally do or how I'd like to be hitting it, but I'm heading in the right direction. I certainly didn't get the score I would have liked, but I felt like I hit a lot of good shots."

Connelly also said it was a thrill to have such a large following of Canadians cheering him on.

"It has been an amazing experience to have all the fans behind me," Connelly said. "It's really special."

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