TORONTO — Aaron Cockerill knows the RBC Canadian Open is an opportunity. It's more than a chance to play elite golf in front of family and friends, it's an opportunity to show North American golf fans what they've been missing.
Cockerill, from Stony Mountain, Man., shot a 2-under-par 68 on Friday morning to make the cut in his first-ever PGA Tour event. The top-ranked Canadian on the European-based DP World Tour, Cockerill wants to showcase his talent for his home continent.
"One hundred per cent, I'm trying to do that," said Cockerill. "We'll try and improve on that on the weekend.
"I think it goes a little unnoticed, but I've been playing really well this year and I hope to have a good weekend here."
Cockerill was tied for 21st place at 2-under-par 138 after two rounds of the national men's championship at St. George's Golf and Country Club. Nick Taylor (68) of Abbotsford, B.C., was also 2 under at the tournament's midway point.
Cockerill played on the PGA Tour Canada when he turned pro in 2018, but has since been plying his trade in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. This is his best season to date.
He is 42nd on the DP World Tour this season and 312th in the official world golf rankings. He tied for second at the Magical Kenya Open on March 5 and tied for third at the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain on April 23.
Cockerill was hard to miss on the course Friday, with mother Kathy, stepfather Doug, wife Chelsea and about a dozen friends from Manitoba cheering him on with shouts of "AC!" and "Let's goooo!"
If their cheers didn't catch the attention, their clothes did.
Many of Cockerill's friends wore T-shirts with his face emblazoned on it. The shirts were originally made last year for Chelsea's bridesmaids at their wedding rehearsal dinner, but have found a new purpose as the uniform of Cockerill's cheering section.
"I feel like I will never see the end of those things," Cockerill said with a laugh. "It's pretty funny and it's good to lighten it up a little bit when it's, you know, a very serious tournament.
"It's good to have a laugh every now and then."
Cockerill was not the only Canadian making a rare appearance on home soil. Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S., the top-ranked Canadian on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, also enjoyed playing in front of his countrymen.
Creighton, who is 30th in the TotalPlay Cup rankings, only drew into the Canadian championship last week.
"I got a call (when) I was in Bogota, Colombia and I was so excited to miss the tournament this week in Colombia and come up here and play," he said. "It was so fun. I had some family and friends out there cheering me on."
Creighton intends to take a week off after the Canadian Open and then play in the Latinoamerica Tour championship on June 23 at PGA Riviera Maya in Tulum, Mexico. He'll then continue his season on the PGA Tour Canada starting with the Prince Edward Island Open on June 30 at Dundarave Golf Club in Cardigan, P.E.I.
The 26-year-old shot a 74 on Friday to miss the cut, but said he still learned a lot from his first PGA Tour event.
"It was just a great experience to see it for the first time and the next time it happens, it won't be new," said Creighton. "I'll know what to expect and know what the deal is and stuff.
"I'm super excited just for the week in general."
Adam Hadwin (70) of Abbotsford, B.C., was tied for 33rd at 1 under. Adam Svensson (68) of Surrey, B.C., and Corey Conners (69) of Listowel, Ont., were tied for 45th at even par. Mackenzie Hughes (75) of Dundas, Ont., was in a tie for 56th.
Vancouver's Stuart Macdonald (70), Roger Sloan (72) of Merritt, B.C., and Mike Weir (70) of Bright's Grove, Ont., all finished at 2 over, one shot above the cut line.
David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., amateur A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam, B.C., Jared du Toit of Kimberley, B.C., Calgary's Wes Heffernan, Brendan Leonard of Cambridge, Ont., Max Sekulic of Rycroft, Alta., amateur Johnny Travale of Hamilton, Callum Davison of Duncan, B.C., and Toronto's Albin Choi all saw their tournaments end on Friday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2022.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press