World Junior Girls Championship In Ottawa A Learning Experience For 5 BC Girls

Team Canada's Junior Girls Pose For A 'Selfie' At The Junior World Championships In Ottawa - Image Credit Alfie Lau

by Alfie Lau

Scoreboards rarely tell the real story of a golf tournament and for five British Columbia girls who were selected to play at The Marshes for the World Junior Girls Championship, that could not be more true.

While South Koreans and Scandinavians dominated the top of the leaderboard, the Canadian girls, led by Alisha Lau, Kathrine Chan and Euna Han on Team Canada 2 and Hannah Lee, Tiffany Kong and Ontario’s Grace St-Germain on Team Canada 1, were the hometown favourites who bravely played on despite their golf games not being at their peaks.

The five Lower Mainland girls had their share of ups and downs – tears were shed – but by the final round, when they played together in three groups with girls from China, they were all smiling and celebrating the responsibility of representing Canada with pride and honour.

On the only cold day of the tournament, Lau was sporting a Canada toque, Lee was wearing a headband and golfing mitts were being packed into each player’s golf bags.

Team Canada coaches Ann Carroll for Team Canada 1 and Mike Martz for Team Canada 2, could not have been more proud of their young charges. “From a team point of view, it’s nice to see how each of them props the others up,” said Martz.

“On day 1, we had Alisha and Euna’s scores counting, and then on day 2 it was Alisha and Kathrine. (On Day 3), it’s Kathrine and Euna so you can see they’ve all chipped in, they all feel like they’re contributing to the team.”

“I think playing in an international event like this (accelerates) their learning and gives them confidence that even though they may not have played their best, they still know they can play against other girls from around the world,” said Carroll. “They tried their best and they put their heart and soul into this and that’s all I can ask.”

Carroll and Martz tried to create a fun atmosphere without dwelling too much on the results from the actual tournament. The team stayed in the luxurious Brookstreet Hotel, which overlooks the course and is adjacent to the worldwide head offices for massive tech companies like Wilan and Huawei.

This is the world of Sir Terry Matthews, who owns The Marshes and many of the buildings and land all around this area in Kanata, approximately 25 kilometres from downtown Ottawa.

While there was homework to be done each night before their 10 p.m. bedtimes, the girls also took a tour of the sites of Downtown Ottawa, including the Parliament buildings.

In addition, after the second round, all 44 competitors and their coaches had a fun barbecue and mini-golf putting competition at the facility adjacent to the clubhouse. “It was a fun night and exactly what the girls needed,” said Carroll, who added the night gave all the competitors a chance to be friends first and competitors second. “We’ve been trying to make it as fun as possible for them so they can enjoy the experience.”

image credit alfie lau

Team Canada 2, Featuring, From Left Alisha Lau, Euna Han And Kathrine Chan, At The World Junior Girls At The Marshes In Ottawa

As part of the fun quotient, each of the girls was sporting a red Canada maple leaf on their cheek, along with red stripes on the other cheek. “We did this (the stripes) with red sharpies,” said Alisha Lau.

For Lau, the tournament was also a great chance to catch up with competitors she played against in Australia earlier in 2015. “I played with Rebecca Kay (from Queensland, Australia) and we said hi to each other,” said Lau. “The more tournaments you play, the more people you meet and it’s nice to play these big tournaments and know some people you’ve played with before.” 

As for their golf, the message the coaches wanted to convey was consistent improvement. “We learn every day and every day, we get smarter,” Carroll said. “I’m really happy that I was able to help my team,” said Chan. “I’m trying to get better every day and I’m just trying to play my own game, have fun and shoot the best score I can. . . I’m happy I played better (for Round 2) and got more experience. It was so fun playing with girls from other countries.”

Lau has a unique perspective, having worked with Carroll this year as a member of Team Canada’s Development Squad. “One of the things I’ve learned is even when I have a bad hole, I get mad for 30 seconds and then I let it go and focus on the next shot,” said Lau.

“Our coaches are always working with us, trying to emphasize the positives and telling us we have to keep learning.” Lau was getting a lot of attention from college golf coaches, who followed her during her rounds and the Richmond native shouldn’t be surprised to be receiving some correspondence from at least one of these coaches when she arrives back home in the Lower Mainland.

“I’m here for the experience,” said Kong. “I had a great experience at the Canadian Open and I think this (has been) a pretty good experience too. . . I have things to work on. I definitely had a lot of fun, meeting new people and playing in this tournament."

"We’re pretty excited to play in this,” said Lee. “We’re trying to have fun.” As for Han, the youngest member of the team, age is not something she worries about. “If you can play well, it doesn’t matter what age you are,” said Han. “I really wanted to make this team and now that I am on it, I have to go and play my own game.”

The Canadians gave up a lot of years, age-wise, but gained a lot of international experience. The Canadian girls were grouped together for Friday’s final round, with Lau and St-Germain playing in a twosome, Han and Lee playing with China’s Wang Ziyi and Chan and Kong playing with China’s Jin Man.

image credit alfie lau

Team Canada 2 Coach Mike Martz, With Tiffany Kong, Alisha Lau, Kathrine Chan, Euna Han, Hannah Lee, Grace St-Germain And Team Canada 1 Coach Ann Carroll

Chan finished as the top Canadian, showing improvement each day, as she finished at (+15) 303 with a T25 finish. Kong was the most consistent member of Team Canada 1, finishing at (+18) 306 and 30th place.

Lau, who made five birdies in her opening round, only to have just one in her next two rounds, made three birdies in a four-hole stretch during her opening 9 during her final round. Lau would finish in 35th place at (+26) 314.

Han, the youngest golfer in the entire tournament, played with a maturity beyond her years, finishing T37 at (+31) 319. Lee struggled, especially with her bunker play, but still had a smile on her face each morning before she teed off. Lee finished in 39th position at (+32) 320.

Hometown favourite Grace St-Germain also had a tough week, but buoyed by the support of her family and friends, she bravely played on, even giving her fans a thrill with an opening hole birdie during her final round. St-Germain finished T37 at (+31) 319.

Carroll and Martz reflected on their week with the young golfers, Carroll saying, “I really enjoyed working with these girls and while the result wasn’t what we wanted, I hope that the girls had fun out there, learned a lot about their games and take the positives from here and build on it.”

“I loved working with these girls and seeing how they helped each other,” said Martz. “Alisha is a good fighter, she’s a good leader and she was a model for her teammates to look up to. Kathrine is phenomenal. She strikes the ball well and I love her attitude. She has the ability to focus on what has to be done. And Euna, what a great athlete. She’s only 13 and she has a tremendous future in front of her.”

image credit alfie lau

Team Canada, From Left Hannah Lee, Grace St-Germain, Alisha Lau, Kathrine Chan, Euna Han And Tiffany Kong

Carroll went on to say in praise of her team, “Grace learned a lot about herself this week because she had the pressure of being the hometown girl. Tiffany, I loved her demeanour. She’s so steady, doesn’t get rattled and you could see that in how she played. Hannah, she’s a good player who just had a tough week, but she was a great teammate.”

Team Canada 2 finished 13th in the team competition, one spot ahead of Team Canada 1. And if there’s any scene which captures the true spirit of these golfers, it was during the opening ceremony on Monday afternoon. Standing in golf blazers, skirts and black dress shoes, the six girls were nervously waiting for the bagpiper to lead the 15 teams out for the ceremony.

Lau and St-Germain were hugging each other, while Han and Chan were sitting down, to give their feet a rest. Kong and Lee were quietly off to the side, both proud of the fact they would be representing Canada and hopeful the ceremonies would be done with soon so they could get back to what they’re most comfortable doing, playing golf.

They would hear The Marshes owner Sir Terry Matthews, the high-tech billionaire, telling the competitors how proud he was to have them on his course, and Canadian Golf Hall-of-Famer Jocelyne Bourassa told them to compete and have fun and make new friends because these are the same girls many of them will be competing against in the years to come.

And while they all wanted to get back into their golf clothes, there was one last thing they needed to do: Go outside and pose with the Canadian flag and take the requisite selfie to capture the moment.