Golf Canada National Teams Feeling Right At Home At Bear Mountain

Golf Canada National Team Members Have Found A Good Home At Victoria's Bear Mountain Golf Resort - Image Credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

LANGFORD -- Golf Canada has gone all-in on player development and for that chief sport officer Jeff Thompson makes no apologies. Golf Canada, with the help of some key corporate sponsors, spends big bucks funding national amateur, developmental and young pro squads and Thompson gave a spirited defence of that strategy at a recent media event at Bear Mountain, the site of Golf Canada’s new national training facility.

“I get often asked why do we spend so much money on so few players and my answer is quite simple,” Thompson said. “Our philosophy from the very top of the organization is we believe in the power of creating champions, creating heroes. That inspires a nation to play our sport.”

Thompson cites LPGA star Brooke Henderson to support his argument. “I call it the Brooke Henderson factor,” Thompson said. “There are more young girls playing golf and I really attribute that to Brooke’s success and the success the rest of the players are having. The importance of champions in my mind is super important.”

It is hard to argue that the national program is not delivering results. More Canadian flags are flying on leaderboards and the success of past team members like Henderson and B.C. products Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor and Adam Svensson points to a bright future for Canadian pro golf.

“We have more Canadians contending on leaderboards on all levels, amateur and professional, around the globe than we ever have,” Thompson said. “We have had 31 professional victories from players who have been involved in our young pro squad over the last four years, so we are very proud about that.”

Golf Canada opened its national training centre at Bear Mountain in late January. It is being used mainly by the members of the men’s and women’s developmental teams. Those players moved to Victoria, where they attend high school in the mornings and then train at Bear Mountain in the afternoon. They also meet at 6 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for group workouts.

image credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf         Golf Canada Chief Sport Officer Jeff Thompson

“We are thrilled with it,” men’s head coach Derek Ingram said of the new training centre. “This has been on our agenda for probably 10 or 12 years and to finally get a home where the guys and gals can train year-round full-time at first-class facilities is literally a dream come true for me and for Golf Canada.”

Victoria’s Nolan Thoroughgood is one of the developmental team members using the new facility. Unlike his teammates, Thoroughgood didn’t have to leave home. He continues to live at home, but Bear Mountain has become his second home. “Having a coach who is always there and is always available to look at my game and answer questions whenever I need is great and having teammates of a similar skill who I can compete closely with, it really just raises the level of my game,” Thoroughgood said.

Thoroughgood, who won the 2016 B.C. Amateur Championship at age 16, is completing Grade 12 and will be attending Oregon State University in the fall. He recognizes that his selection to the national developmental team has given him a great opportunity. This spring, he has already played in tournaments in Hawaii and California. He and his teammates leave on June 9 for Japan to compete in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup.

“We have all these people supporting us,” Thoroughgood said. “We have lots of resources and the facilities here at Bear Mountain have been great. They have been super-accommodating. They made space for us over on the driving range and earlier in the year we had nine holes on one of the courses reserved for us.”

Like Thoroughgood, Ellie Szeryk is a new member of the developmental team. But unlike Thoroughgood, Szeryk had to move a long way to join her new teammates at Bear Mountain. A dual-citizen, Szeryk came all the way from her Texas home. “The girls team is staying in one house and our assistant coach Sarah Maude-Juneau is living with us,” Szeryk said. “So in that sense it is a little easier in that we didn’t have to open up to a so-to-speak new family. It has been difficult at times, but overall it has been a lot of fun.”

Szeryk has little doubt the move has been good for her game. “I have become a lot more mature both on and off the golf course,” she said. “They have kind of opened my eyes to a new perspective on how I should play. They have also given me drills I never would have thought about. There are so many days where I have gone, ‘oh, that makes sense, I don’t know why I didn’t think about that.’ So in that sense it has been really helpful.”

image credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf          Team Canada's Ellie Szeryk And Nolan Thoroughgood 

Thompson called the new training centre a game-changer for team members. “One of the things that we think will really affect performance is the amount of contact time our players get with the coaching staff. Through this initiative we have increased that contact time by 300 per cent which I don’t think can be anything but game-changing for the program. Our country has a very large footprint and we need to look at bringing the best athletes together with our world-class coaching at a world-class facility and I can tell you it is going to produce results.”

The new training centre at Bear Mountain includes a high-performance lab in the basement of the main building where players can work regardless of the weather outside. B.C. has representatives on all three national teams. Besides Thoroughgood, Richmond’s Chris Crisologo is a member of the men’s national amateur team, which just left on a European trip. Naomi Ko of Victoria is on the women’s national amateur team and Kimberley’s Jared du Toit is a former national team member who is now part of the young pro squad.

In addition to the facilities and coaching available at their new Bear Mountain facility, team members also regularly work with experts in the areas of mental performance, physiotherapy, biomechanics and nutrition. They also have access to the nearby Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.

And of course, having the opportunity to regularly play on both the Mountain and Valley courses at Bear Mountain has been beneficial as well. “These are the type of golf courses where the more you play the better you get,” said lead developmental team coach Robert Ratcliffe. “They force you to get better and that has been fantastic for these guys and girls. Centralizing everything has been a benefit, but doing it here has knocked it out of the park.”