More flag-waving

First of all this week, kudos and thanks to Golf Canada for hosting a media day event at Goodwood Golf Club, near Uxbridge, for the purpose of introducing this year’s members of the Amateur Men’s and Women’s Team Canada for Golf.  There were five women and six team members in attendance, along with Pro Squad members Augusta James and Sue Kim, and after the news conference, each played 18 holes with a foursome of journalists and officials.

These young men and women on the amateur teams are in various stages of post-secondary education, on golf scholarships at U.S. universities, and playing on their respective college teams.  All of them, of course, hope to one day find themselves playing on the PGA or LPGA Tours, and I’m sure all of them realize what a huge, huge mountain it is for them to climb to get to the top.

But one thing’s for certain.  It really isn’t much of a disadvantage to be Canadian anymore, standing and looking up at that peak so high above.  There are dozens more young Canadian kids who are qualifying for US golf scholarships, for one thing… and that – aside from talent, dedication, perseverance, and supportive parents – is just one of the near-prerequisites to climbing to the top.  (Some, like Brooke Henderson, have had the sheer talent to abstain from taking that route.)

For the members of Team Canada, who have excelled enough already to have made the team, there is now the added benefit of outstanding coaching.  Coaching includes golf instruction, of course, but also physical training, and guidance in diet, psychology, deportment, patience, competition, rules, strategy, pressure, and sportsmanship.  The two head coaches in charge of the teams – Derek Ingram for the men, and Tristan Mullally for the women, along with a team of colleagues – deserve huge respect and gratitude from all of us who take pride in the achievements of Canadians on the way up.

The National Team system, in its current iteration, has been in place for nearly 13 years, and has shown some outstanding results.  As I’ve written here recently, there are so many more Canadian flags on tournament leaderboards throughout the world, and many of them are graduates of Team Canada… names that we’re all getting to know like Maude-Aimée LeBlanc, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Augusta James, Sue Kim, Taylor Pendrith, Corey Connors, Albin Choi… not to mention established players like Graham DeLaet, Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor… and of course, our resident budding superstar, Brooke Henderson.

Team Canada could not exist without the financial and moral support of its sponsors, who never get enough credit.  These companies include RBC, CP Rail, Titleist, Foot-Joy, the Government of Canada, Hudson’s Bay, and ClubLink.

I had the pleasure of being in a group at Goodwood with a young Team Canada member from Quebec, Hugo Bernard.  I watched Hugo pound his drives well over 300 yards, fire lasers onto greens that I couldn’t dream of reaching even in my 20s, then pour in a series of 10-15-and-20 foot putts, on greens that ran about 12 on the stimp.  As Mr. Jones once said of Mr. Nicklaus, “he plays a game with which I’m not familiar”.

I hope it won’t be too many years before I see Hugo’s name, and those of all his team-mates, on Big Tour leaderboards.  At that point I will, of course, take credit for showing Hugo how NOT to play the game.

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One of my playing partners at Goodwood was my longtime friend and colleague, Lorne Rubenstein, who was delighted to tell us during the round that a news release had just been distributed that afternoon, announcing that he’s going to be writing a new book with Tiger Woods.  The book will be about Tiger’s truly historic, 12-shot victory in the 1997 Masters, and will be published in time for the 20th anniversary of that astounding event.  Lorne was chosen for the task personally by Tiger, and it comes on the heels of a sensitive and revealing interview that Lorne recently did with Tiger for Time Magazine, no less.

Lorne retired a couple of years ago from nearly three decades as the Globe and Mail’s highly revered golf columnist… a job that is almost extinct at newspapers throughout the world today, sadly.  But he remains one of the most respected and sought-after observers of the game, and we should be as proud of his achievements in writing about golf as we are of those who have, and will, excel in playing it.

Lorne may also have a brilliant medical mind.  When I mentioned that I may have consumed close to 20,000 Diet Cokes over the last 35 years, and have had no side effects despite the dire warnings of alarmists about the dangers of aspartame, Lorne pointed out that Diet Coke may well be the cause of my taking an average of at least 36 putts per round.

He may be wrong, but I’m switching to Diet Pepsi to test his theory.

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