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Bursey bursts out to early lead after an opening round 63

Blair Bursey Blair Bursey - PGA TOUR Canada

CALEDON, Ontario -- Blair Bursey continued the streak of strong play from Canadian golfers on Thursday when he used a barrage of birdies in the middle of his round to surge into the first-round lead at the Osprey Valley Open presented by Votorantim Cimentos CBM Aggregates.

Bursey, of Gander, Newfoundland, posted eight birdies over a nine-hole stretch – including six in a row – to shoot an opening round 63 at TPC Toronto’s Heathland course, enjoying a one-shot lead in the sixth event of PGA TOUR Canada’s schedule.

Bursey finished one stroke better than the American’s Blake Maum and John Pak, who already has one victory this season. Canadian Brendan MacDougall joins American’s Ryann Ree, Matt Liringis, George Kneiser, Brian Carslon and Josh Radcliff at a tie for fourth at 6-under 65.

“I did my job today. Hopefully I can do it again tomorrow," Bursey said. "If I can stack those days together, then things will happen quicker as opposed to slower, but it was a good day and hopefully I’ll repeat it again tomorrow."

The left-hander started on the back nine. He birdied No. 13 and 14, parred No. 15 and then knocked in six straight birdies from holes 16 through 3. His lone bogey came at No. 5 and he finished with a birdie on the final hole.

Bursey is a playing ambassador for host site TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley, and wore one of the club’s blue-logoed shirts on Thursday. He got into the field on a sponsor exemption and is trying to follow in the steps of Stuart Macdonald, who won last week on an exemption.

Bursey played PGA TOUR Canada in 2022 and did not qualify for the weekend in nine starts. He missed the cut eight times and withdrew in the other. After working through a few mechanical swing issues, things began to turn around for him on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica circuit this spring. He had two top-25s in 11 starts and made four cuts. The progress continued on Thursday.

"It's just one round, but you know I've put in a lot of work, especially in the last 18 months, and haven't seen many results," Bursey said. "I had started to see some good signs the last half of the Latinoamérica season. It's been a struggle for a little bit, but I’ll just continue to do the right things and hopefully the results will come."

Also starting on the back nine, Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, had seven birdies – six on his first nine holes where he shot 29 – and enjoyed a relatively stress-free round until his final hole, No. 9, the 553-yard par-5. His drive landed in the thick fescue rough, requiring him to punch out into the fairway, where he got up-and-down from 90 yards for par.

“I hit some really good shots and made a lot of putts and just didn’t really do anything particularly bad,” said Pak, who is currently ranked No. 2 on the Fortinet Cup points list. “I just kept the ball in play, hit a couple close and capitalized on it.”

Maum, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, shot his lowest round of the season. Maum has made the cut in three of five PGA TOUR Canada starts this season, but his best finish came last week at the Commissionaires Ottawa Open, where he tied for 35th.

He had eight birdies – including four-straight after making the turn – and only one bogey. Maum was especially proud of his birdie at No. 4, where his drive landed within 40 yards of the green. He followed that with a less-than-auspicious wedge, but still made the 30-foot to retain his momentum.

“I hit it good all day, like I hit it good last week, and kind of have pretty much all year, but today was the first day I was able to convert some of those birdie looks that I hadn’t in the previous weeks,” Maum said.

Tied for 10th at 5-under 66 are the USA’s Kyle Karazissis, Ryan Linton, Andrew Paisley, Hayden Springer and Canadian Joey Savoie.