by DAVID W. KEEN
I had the opportunity to speak with Derek Ingram, Golf Canada’s National Men's Team coach, while at the RBC Canadian Open. He talked about golf in Canada and some of the up-and-coming players in Canada’s ranks that gainined some tremendous experience this week in Montreal.
While the tournament is filled with some of the biggest names in Canadian golf like Graham DeLaet, David Hearn, Mike Weir and Stephen Ames, it was exciting to see how many talented young Canadians were teeing off as well. No one is better suited to talk about the newest crop of Canadian golfers than Ingram — he has worked with the national team set-up for over a decade on both the men’s and women’s side.
As amateur Taylor Pendrith started putting up some impressive numbers in the first round of the RBC Canadian Open on Thursday, I wasn’t surprised — Ingram had prepared me for it during our chat earlier in the week:
“If you put Taylor Pendrith on the PGA Tour right now, he’d certainly be in the top three in distance, and maybe even first,” said Ingram. “On top of that, he hits the ball very straight, especially for a guy who can hit it like he can and he’s an excellent putter, with soft hands around the greens. That’s a pretty lethal combination.”
Pendrith went on to finish the round tied for third place, just one shot back. Even after he came back down to earth a little by following his first round 65 with a second round 75 to sit at even par, Pendrith did enough to ensure he’d be playing this weekend by making the cut: no small feat for an amateur playing in his first PGA Tour event.
Ingram is proudly enthusiastic about his “dragons” who are playing this week (his term of endearment for the young crop of Canadians he works closely with.) I asked him to take a minute to highlight each player. In addition to Pendrith, the group includes Corey Conners of Listowel, Ontario, Chris Hemmerich of Kitchener, Ontario and Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., who Ingram swears will be “Canada’s Rory McIlroy.”
“I’m a huge believer in Adam Svensson. When I say I believe he’s going to be Canada’s Rory McIlroy, I’m not exaggerating. He just has no holes in his game. He’s won at every level he’s played at and I truly believe he’s got the game to be superstar.”
“Corey is a nice combination of straight and long. He’s super consistent and very cerebral, you know, he doesn’t make very many mental errors around the course,” said Ingram.
“Chris is really coming into his own, he’s always had great hands, great iron play but he needed to improve his driving. He’s done such a great job working on his tee shots that he’s just shot right up the amateur rankings,” Ingram said.
Praise like that isn’t handed out lightly, but Ingram says he feels that across all levels of Canadian golf, and sports in general, there’s been a shift in attitude, in belief.
“My guys are here to win,” said Ingram, “they’re not arrogant or cocky, but they’re confident and they believe they can do it. You know Graham DeLaet and David Hearn and these guys, they’re here to win, they’re not just coming to compete.”
With Canadian professional players doing more and more to gain attention, and skilled coaches and instructors like Derek Ingram working with the up-and-coming talent, there’s no reason to believe Canada can’t experience a golden age, so to speak, in golf. Canada has done just that at the last few Olympics, and recently in basketball and tennis. It should give Canadian golf hope that this push can be maintained.