August is the month of major championships in professional and amateur golf. The last professional major is of course on this week at the Oak Hill club in Rochester, N.Y. That’s the PGA Championship. Tiger Woods is the burning hot favourite, having won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio last week by seven shots. Predictions are pointless in golf, but if Woods can drive it in the fairway–the two to five times he said he’d use a driver–look out. The rest of his game is solid–Woods solid, that is, and who can beat him when he’s at his best?
Meanwhile, the U.S. Women’s Amateur is on in Charleston, S.C., and the Canadian (Men’s) Amateur is on in Victoria, B.C. I’ll focus here on Taylor Pendrith, a 22-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont. who is playing the Canadian Amateur. Pendrith won the recent Porter Cup in Lewiston, N.Y. by five shots. Then, two days later, he won the Coppinwood Invitational at the Coppinwood club in Uxbridge, Ont.
Pendrith, a member of Team Canada and a junior at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, shot 68-66-63-67 for a total of 16-under 264 to win the Porter Cup at the Niagara Falls Country Club. He won by five shots. His Team Canada teammate Justin Shin finished third. Pendrith and Shin played together in the last round. Shin is from Hamilton, Ont. He’s also playing the Canadian Amateur, which concludes Friday.
At the Coppinwood tournament, a one-day event that attracts top amateurs, Pendrith’s 69 took the honours. Pendrith was playing Coppinwood for the first time, and thought it was a terrific course. There’s talk of Coppinwood hosting a Canadian Open. We’ll see.
I caught up with Pendrith soon after his two wins, just before he left for the Canadian Amateur. His reputation is as a long hitter, and he told me he carries his driver 300 yards with his “normal” swing, meaning that he has more in reserve. Above all, though, I was impressed with his thoughtfulness. Many accomplished young golfers can’t wait to turn pro. Many do so before graduating, and it’s hardly automatic that they’ll go on to have successful careers as tour golfers.
“My long game is my strength,” Pendrith said, “but I need to get better with my wedges. I need to hit them with less spin and on a lower trajectory. I have a lot of wedges into par-4s. If I can dial the shots in and hit them consistently within five to 15-feet, in a tighter pattern, that will help me. It’s all about wedges for me.”
Pendrith will take two weeks off after the Canadian Amateur, and then return to Kent State for his senior year. He said he’ll have to do another semester before graduating in December of 2014. That’s okay with him. Pendrith isn’t hurrying to turn pro until he’s finished school, if then.
“I still think I need to get a lot better before I turn pro,” he elaborated. “I see so many guys turn pro and struggle at it. If I get better the next year or two, then I’ll turn pro. I’m determined to get better before I do that.”
Pendrith works on his swing at school with Kent State’s assistant golf coach Rob Wakeling. He also works with Team Canada’s men’s head coach Derek Ingram and assistant coach Robert Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe was with him at the Porter Cup.
Here’s what Ingram has to say about both Pendrith and Shin.
“Taylor has been on our radar for several years now and we are so pleased that he made our national team last year,” he wrote in an e-mail. “He is very explosive and has tremendous length. On top of that he is an excellent putter and very good iron player. There are some areas that we are going to help Taylor with over the next couple of years and we believe he’s going to be a tremendous player. He is a smart young man and very coachable. Really he is just a solid guy and very appreciative of our program.”
As for New Mexico State University senior Shin, Ingram says, “Justin has an incredible work ethic. He has really improved this year from the start of the season and continues to get better. Like Taylor we knew that good and great results were coming soon from Justin. So there is certainly no surprise that he had a very good Porter Cup and before that a nice U.S. Public Links. (Shin shot 69-76 to qualify for match play, won his first two matches in extra holes, and then succumbed in the round of 16 to Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon, Wis., the eventual champion).
“Justin is smart and organized and very professional in his approached to the game and his development.” Ingram continued. “We are also very high on Justin for the future.”
As they develop, Shin and Pendrith, like all golfers, learn to be aware of their tendencies. Three-time major champion Nick Price has said that every golfer, no matter how good, has two or three areas where problems creep in and which they need to watch.
“When I get in a pressure situation I tend to fall back on old habits and miss right when I’m trying to hit a draw,” Pendrith said. “Rob helped me out with a good swing thought [at the Porter Cup]. We just decided that I would hit one stock shot. I hit a fade off every tee. It worked for me.”
Pendrith spoke highly of the Team Canada program. He’s been in the program for only one year, and pronounced it “awesome.”
The program, he noted, is very structured. He attended a couple of training camps, and, he said, team members “enjoy access to all the coaches whenever we want. There’s usually at least one of them at tournaments we play. They know your swing, and they can really help you.”
Pendrith and Shin have been reaping the benefits of that help. Now we’ll see whether one of them can win the Canadian Amateur. As I write, Pendrith is two-under through seven holes in the second round. Shin is also two-under, through three holes. Team Canada teammate Corey Conners, from Listowel, Ont., and also a Kent State student, is leading He shot 66 in the opening round and is –7 through eight holes of the second round.
I wouldn’t mind being in Victoria watching the Canadian Amateur. Clearly, there are some very good young Canadian players there. We’ll hear more about them as they continue to make their way in the game. So far, they’re making their way nicely.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein