OAKVILLE, ONT. -- Brendan Steele's spot at the top of the leaderboard at the RBC Canadian Open came thanks to some superb play. His silky 65 was a result of driving the ball well, hitting irons close and dropping lots of putts, some from a great distance.
Not bad for a guy playing his first competitive round on the course that Jack Nicklaus built.
But he also might have had a bit of help from some local flavour -- a little dose of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On Wednesday, while the pro-am was being played at Glen Abbey, Steele was up at The National GC in Woodbridge, Ont., teeing it up with current Leaf Joffrey Lupul and former Bud Bryan Berard.
"I'm a big hockey fan," said Steele, who lists about a half-dozen NHL players as good pals. "I just love the sport."
On his website, Steele says his dream foursome would include Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, along with his brother. It also lists the LA Kings as his favourite team and says one of his favourite things to do is watch Alex Ovechkin.
Steele and Lupul became friends due to location. Both live in the Newport Beach, Calif., area and met while playing golf. When both are home and not off at their jobs, they play regularly with a gang that includes Scottie Upshall of the Florida Panthers and the Calgary Flames' Shane O'Brien.
The foursome for the game on Wednesday at The National was rounded out by Kevin Klein from the Nashville Predators.
Steele said there were no money games between the group, it was just a day of fun on the No. 1-ranked course in the country. He praised Lupul's golf game, pegging the forward at about a seven handicap.
"He's a pretty good player," Steele stated. "I know he loves the game."
A passion for hockey isn't Steele's only connection to the Great White North. He played the Canadian Tour in 2006 and '07, saying it provided him with lots of much-needed experience.
"[It] really got me ready to play the Nationwide Tour, which I played in '08, '09 and '10. It was a great progression in my life. I had a great time up here. Made a lot of friends and spent two summers traveling the country and really enjoyed my time."
Steele, who grew up in tiny Hemet, Calif., a town without a golf course or driving range, said his round at the Abbey was one where everything was working.
"Ya, it's very rare," he stated. "It seems like a lot of the time when you're flushing it, you can't make a putt and when you're holing it, it's out of necessity. So it's nice to have a round where everything comes together."
It was Steele's lowest round since February.
"I hit a lot of good iron shots," he added. "I hit them really close. Hit some good tee shots as well – I had to put it in position. You can't really hit the ball close out of the rough."
Steele hopes he can continue playing well at the Abbey and perhaps notch a second PGA Tour victory. Now that would probably give him some bragging points for the next game with his hockey buddies.