A reader sent a note a few days ago in which he expressed concern that there wasn’t much to get excited about in terms of how Canadian tour golfers were faring. He noticed the relative paucity of Canadians on the PGA Tour, and that Lorie Kane, now 48, remained the top Canadian on the LPGA Tour.
“What’s to be done?” he asked.
His concern is unwarranted, at least in my opinion. Golf goes in cycles. Golfers who follow the fortunes and misfortunes of tour golfers tend to take how they’re faring as a sign of something that’s really right or deeply wrong in some department. Why isn’t Canada producing more top-notch players? Are development programs to blame? Should there even be development programs? What’s going on?
Canada has a first-rate development program. Golf Canada runs it, and the organization has put plenty of resources behind it. When players come through and do well, the organization naturally feels good about this and makes their efforts known. When players come through and don’t do well, we don’t hear too much about the failures–if indeed they are failures. Golf’s a brutally difficult game. You can never be sure you’re assigning credit or blame in proper proportions.
Things happen. Golf happens. The other day Golf Canada held its annual bring out its team members and show them to the media event. The event was held at the Club at Bond Head an hour or so north of Toronto. I couldn’t be there, but my colleagues Jeff Brooke and Adam Stanley said it was a terrific event. Jeff played with veteran Marlene Streit – not a team member – but if they had a veterans’ team she’d be the leader. Still, she’s a “team” member if you know what I mean – she is all about Canadian golfers making their way in the game.
Jeff said she showed him a thing or two. She always does. Now, Marlene isn’t a big believer in the idea that you can sculpt winning golfers out of a piece of stone. Every golfer is flesh and blood and must to some degree find his or her own way of coping with the demands of the game, and, should a player turn pro, of handling what comes then. Experience may well be the best teacher, but it can’t hurt to prepare golfers as best as possible.
Let’s consider Graham DeLaet. The powerful 31-year-old from Weyburn, Sask. was on the 2005 and 2006 Team Canada squad. He’s had three top-10s on this year’s PGA Tour and is ranked 105th in the world. One hundred and fifth: Imagine for a moment how good a golfer you need to be to rank that high. It’s your call as to whether you think that’s an accomplishment.
But DeLaet has yet to win on the PGA Tour. He’s yet to play a major and opted not to try to get through the 36-hole sectional qualifiers that were held Monday throughout the United States. He wanted to rest for a couple of weeks. That’s his call. It’s his life. This hasn’t stopped many people from lambasting him for his choice. Give it up, folks.
Here’s a question: Has DeLaet’s play been indicative of a failure for Team Canada – hey, he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour – or of success? Anybody who claims to have an answer is blowing smoke or mist or living under the illusion of understanding precisely what’s happening, or not happening. Sometimes the best answer to my correspondent’s question “What’s to be done?” is “Maybe nothing at all.” Let’s see how things go.
Meanwhile, David Hearn, the Brantford, Ont. golfer who will turn 34 on June 17th, has also been a Team Canada member. Like DeLaet, he’s yet to win on the PGA Tour. Hearn is ranked 196th in planet golf. He shot 69-65 on Monday to finish second in his sectional U.S. Open qualifier. Hearn has played two majors, both U.S. Opens, in 2005 and 2008. He missed the cut in each. He, like DeLaet, is a mightily gifted golfer. Would he have come this far without his experience with Golf Canada’s development programs? Would he have gone further on his own?
I have no idea.
Then there’s Adam Hadwin. The 29-year-old who lives in Abbotsford, B.C. tied for 39th at the 2011 U.S. Open, his only major. He then tied for fourth in the RBC Canadian Open. Impressive? I’d say so. Hadwin says he’s been unsteady this year, mixing plenty of good golf with too many mistakes. He was a Team Canada member in 2008. Hadwin can light it up. Let him mature in the game. The dark areas could turn into shade and then into bright lights.
Finally, how about Mackenzie Hughes? He’s 22, from Dundas, Ont. I met him last year during an event at the Dundas Valley Golf Club, which I consider a course that should be much better known. Stanley Thompson designed it and Hughes obviously knows how to play it. He seemed to me a thinking man’s golfer. Hughes has won the last two Canadian Amateurs. He’s a pro now. And he’s in the U.S. Open because he won a two for one playoff on Monday. He was on the 2012 Team Canada team.
Back then, to the question a reader posed: “What’s to be done?” I’d say plenty is being done. I’ve been around long enough in the game not to try to predict the future, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Canadians do very well for a very long time. And, by the way, how about Mike Weir? So many people have been writing him off, but he was eight-under par at his U.S. Open qualifier. He ended up in an 11-man playoff for seven spots, and didn’t make it through. But he’s first alternate and could get into next week’s highly anticipated U.S. Open at the historic Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Penn.
What does Weir’s play show? It shows that golf is a grind. It’s pitiless. And it’s ridiculous that any of us – writers included – believe we are experts in knowing what the future holds for any golfer.
I’ll have more to say on the women’s side of things. What do you know? Kane led the way at her qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open June 27-30 at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. Hmmm. I did say she’s 48, didn’t I? Meanwhile, Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont. did shot 69-67 to tie for first at her qualifier. Did I mention that Henderson is 15 years old?
More on the women later. For now, I’ll answer the question “What’s to be done?” this way.
It’s being done.
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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 email@example.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein