By Steve Keating
OAKVILLE, Ontario (Reuters) - Hunter Mahan turned his back on potential million dollar pay day walking away from a two-shot lead at the Canadian Open on Saturday to return home for the birth of his first child.
Athletes in North America's big four professional sports leagues are routinely granted time off to attend the birth of a child and never miss a pay check.
Even Britain's Prince William was given leave from his military duties to be with his wife Katherine when she gave birth to their first child earlier this week.
Mahan's decision, however, to rush home to be with his wife Kandi, who suddenly went into labor, could have come with a considerable price tag with the winner's check worth $1 million.
"The birth of a child is an unforgettable experience," said world number six Matt Kuchar, who will start Sunday's final round just two shots back of leader Brandt Snedeker. "It just happens only maybe once in a lifetime.
"It's something that's special, something that's completely magical and unforgettable.
"I hope with the early birth everything is safe and everybody is well.
"I think Hunter has got to make sure he takes care of his family. That's first and foremost."
Mahan's fellow golfers explained that Mahan was caught a bit off guard by his wife's call with her due date not expected until mid-August.
"I think we were all surprised," said Kuchar. "I talked to Hunter just two days ago. He said that I think the due date was weekend of Greensboro (August 15-18).
"So it's quite early."
After carding an opening round 67 followed by a sparkling eight-under 64 on Friday, Mahan surged two shots clear at the top of the leaderboard and in pole position to finally cash in on his good form and collect his first win of the season.
While one of the tournaments marquee names will be missing from Sunday's final round, the Canadian Open is set for an exciting final round with several players moving into contention in Mahan's absence.
"Hopefully everything goes all right, I know it's one of those situations where you probably wouldn't expect him to have to leave," said Dustin Johnson, who fired a sizzling nine-under 63 to sit just three off the pace.
"But sometimes that's just how it works.
"He's playing really well right now but things happen and obviously I'm in a good position for going into tomorrow."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)