If you’re a golf fan, which you likely are if you’re visiting “The Next Tee”, it’s an exciting time. The days are slowly starting to get longer and golf’s first major championships are only a couple of short months away. Now, if you’re reading this and you’re a Canadian, it’s a terrific time to be a golf fan.
It wasn’t all that long ago when Canadian golfers were a mere blip on the radar during any given week on the professional golf tours. Names like Moe Norman, George Knudson, Sandra Post, David Barr, Richard Zokol, Ian Leggatt, Dawn Coe-Jones, Lorie Kane, Stephen Ames and our diminutive 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir and several others made themselves known to the golf world at large. Locally, Marlene Stewart-Streit is a World Golf Hall of Fame inductee.
The development programs offered in Canada all begin at the grassroots level with junior golf. Junior Golf is on the rise and it was noticeable during the Spring/Summer of 2020. For a lot of school-aged children, their usual participation sports were shutdown. Soccer fields (pitches) were empty, and so too were were baseball diamonds and hockey arenas. So, parents took their kids to the golf course for golf camps or dropped them off for the day to play golf. Initially, there was CN Future Links, which consisted of a series of program but has since given way to the First Tee – Canada which was launched in 2021, a firm foundation on which to stand. Furthermore, the advent of junior golf tour’s like U.S. Kids Golf, the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour and the Durham Junior Golf Tour all allow these junior golfers a place to compete.
These programs are not only growing the game but they’re also offering an opportunity for these youth themselves, to grow with the game. As a result, there’s a chance that some of these junior golfers will play golf throughout their high school years and earn golf scholarships to top American colleges and universities. Provincial golf associations like Golf Ontario, Golf Quebec, and the Nova Scotia Golf Association, for example, are provide a great platform for players to hone their skills and get instruction from some of the country’s top instructors. These provincial development programs also just happen to offer a pathway to play for Team Canada.
However, the development doesn’t end there. There are “Development Tour’s” like the Great Lakes Tour that gives golfers to compete at the next level. Every step along the way, when you think about it, is like a set of building blocks. Levels. Levels of competition, preparation, and experience. Trusting the process, which could be construed as cliche. It’s taken a while for these trees to root and bear fruit. But, it pays to be patient.
PGA TOUR Canada , formerly known as the Canadian Tour has gone a long way to further cement the future of Canadian golf. However, everything isn’t all rosy on the women’s side. The opportunities aren’t as plentiful. Unless this writer is totally mistaken, there isn’t anything for them. The Canadian Women’s Tour was around in 2014, but I haven’t heard a whisper since. There was an event held at the Niagara Parks Legends on the Niagara – Battlefield Course. The current #10 ranked player in the Rolex Women’s Official World Golf Ranking, Brooke Henderson, played in that event. The only option for women to compete professionally in Canada (or at least Ontario) is to play a percentage of the yardage on tours, like the Toronto Players Tour.
Currently, at any event, there’s a good chance that you’ll see the maple leaf make an appearance on a leaderboard. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the LPGA Tour or the PGA TOUR. This past week was great for Canadian women on the LPGA Tour. Not one, but two Canadians found themselves finishing in the Top-10. I refer to Canada’s winning-est golfer in Canadian golf history (regardless of gender) Brooke Henderson and Maude-Aimee LeBlanc. Other Canadian women competing on the LPGA Tour include veteran Alena Sharp, Maddie Szeryk
In the same week, a record nine Canadian men teed it up at the Farmer’s Insurance Open. Golf fans have come to know Corey Conners (who had a breakout season in 2021), Mackenzie Hughes, Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, Michael Gligic, Adam Svensson, Jared Du Toit, Taylor Pendrith and Maxwell Sear. There’s a host of others too, Roger Sloan quickly comes to mind.
The pipeline has great prospects and the future is a bright as the Northern Lights on a cold, clear northern Canada night.
See You on the Next Tee!!