Mark Scheifele proves he’s no one-trick pony at PGA Tour Canada event

Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler (26) and Mark Scheifele (55) talk to each other during a time stoppage during second period NHL Western Conference Finals game 5 hockey action against the Vegas Golden Knights, in Winnipeg, Sunday, (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)

An opening round of 15-over is never ideal at a Mackenzie Tour/PGA Tour Canada event. Frankly, it knocks you out of contention pretty early. However, it’s an impressive result if golf isn’t usually the sport that you play professionally.

Mark Scheifele, an alternate captain for the Winnipeg Jets, exchanged his stick for a driver at the Players Cup on Thursday. By the time he left the Southwood Golf & Country Club in Winnipeg, he had posted a birdie, six pars, seven bogeys, three double bogeys and one triple for an 87.

As a casual golfer myself, I’d take that any day of the week. An 87 at an official tournament is solid, but I can’t imagine what he was feeling on that first tee.

“Oh, I think I blacked out when I hit,” said Scheifele, about his first shot to reporters following the round. “I don’t even know where it went… You’d think playing in front of thousands and thousands of fans playing hockey, you’d be used to it. But when you get a golf club in your hands, it’s a totally different story. There were a few putts where I was like, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack.”

The 25-year-old is coming off a dynamite postseason where he scored 14 goals and added six assists in 17 games. His Jets made it to the Western Conference Final before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.

That playoff run was a grind, but so was this.

“I got to the thirteenth hole and I was just wiped,” explained Scheifele with a smile. “Like, I need a nap right now… It’s crazy, the mental fortitude that they (professional golfers) have, the bounce back that they need to have…”

It was just over two weeks ago that Adam Boge, the executive director of the Players Cup, announced Scheifele would be replacing Jets’ captain Blake Wheeler at this year’s tournament. Wheeler had a spot at the event on a sponsor’s exemption, but couldn’t play due to personal commitments.

Scheifele currently sits 24 shots behind first-round leader Cody Blick — the American shot a nine-under 63 to sit atop the leaderboard by two strokes. Canadian James Love is tied for third following an opening round of 66.

“It’s an honour to be part of the Players Cup,” said Scheifele in a media release before play began. “I grew up playing golf, starting on a small course in Tavistock, Ontario, and to have this chance to play in a PGA Tour sanctioned event is very exciting.”

I grew up playing golf there as well. The par-60 Tavistock Golf Course may have been short (its longest hole was only 330 yards), but it was tricky and forced its challengers to dial in their short game.

With that in mind, expect Scheifele to be dangerous around the green in the second round on Friday. If he takes what he learned from his early golf years, we may see a few more birdies from the hockey star.

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