– Developing The Next Generation –
It is almost impossible to think of junior golf development in Canada and not include Henry Brunton. The PGA of Canada Master Professional has made a name for himself, both in Canada, and in other countries around the world, and that recognition is well-deserved. He has more than a “name” alone that garners respect – you just need to scratch the surface to realize his tremendous body of work could not be accomplished without extreme dedication and knowledge. It’s a pretty remarkable resume for a golf professional that got his start in North Grenville, small-time Ontario where golf wasn’t exactly the marquee sport.
The one-time Kemptville ’73’s hockey player (then a Junior B Club) was back to his home turf just this past fall. He became the first golf affiliated person to be honoured with induction into the North Grenville Sports Hall of Fame. It was an important credit for the 46 year-old Brunton. Although he now makes his home in Stouffville, Ontario with wife Rhonda Fleury (also an accomplished golf professional), he always remembers where he came from.
Of course, trying to pin down Brunton for a chat can always be a challenge. In the past few months he has been doing work in Bermuda and Florida, all in the aid of player development – a topic that he has been passionate about for a long time, even long before he became involved in the Canadian National Team program in 1999, working with the program for 14 years, 13 as the Head Coach for the Men’s and Junior Teams. You just need to take a run through his web page (www.henrybrunton.com) to get a feel for all he has been involved in.
In 2009, Brunton published Journey to Excellence: The Young Golfer’s Complete Guide to Achievement and Personal Growth, the first comprehensive guide to competitive junior golf for both juniors and their parents. He authored the RCGA Achievement Guide, a comprehensive manual for high performance players and coaches and has also created the Canadian PGA’s Teaching and Coaching Certification Program (TCCP), a mandatory training program for all Canadian PGA Professionals. His new book, “High Performance Golf” is scheduled for release this June.
Brunton tells us that he has also partnered with Dr. Rick Jensen of Boca Raton, FL, a leader in sports performance, to establish the Certified Golf Coaches Association. After they had a successful pilot program at Disney in Orlando in January they now plan to take this education program for PGA Professionals throughout Canada and the United States.
It’s easy to understand why he has been named one of the top teachers in the world and won more awards than this space will allow a listing of.
We caught up with Henry last summer at the Wyndance Golf Club in Uxbridge, Ontario during a media day for the national team. One thing became clear as we played; few people are more focussed about developing young golfers. And when I say development, this is not about teaching a perfect swing; it’s more than that. Brunton takes a more holistic approach, taking into account every possible factor that could have an impact on a person. It’s a philosophy he started to develop at a young age.
Henry grew up in Kemptville, a fairly rural community some 55 kilometres south of Ottawa along what is now Highway 416. With only 3,500 residents recreational opportunities were limited in Kemptville as Henry grew up. Born in 1965, by his pre-teen years summer recreation in the town consisted of finding a way to do anything around the Rideau River that cuts next to town or basically waiting for hockey season. But there was one other option. It came in the form of the Rideau Glen Golf Club, also located near the river and a staple in the town since it was founded in 1929. It was at Rideau Glen that a young Henry Brunton, just twelve, entered the golf business.
It was not a glamorous beginning, Brunton basically washed carts and the like but it allowed him to spend lots of time around the course, with plenty of sunlight hours left for endless laps of what was then a 9-hole course. His playing skills would eventually earn him wins within the club pro ranks and twice being named the Quebec Player of the Year for Assistants. Before Henry graduated from North Grenville District High School in 1984, he had found his way to working at the private RideauView Country Club in Manotick. It was a place that would begin his golf career in earnest, under the tutelage of Head Professional Paul Sherratt, a renowned coach and one-time President of the PGA of Canada.
It was there, in 1982, that Brunton crossed paths with Gavin Corbeil, now a Sales Representative for Titleist/FootJoy in Eastern Ontario. Corbeil says even at that young age Henry stood apart. Working in the back shop and pro shop together, they were also teammates on the ‘73’s and it provided Corbeil with a window into Brunton’s psyche. “He was the first guy I was ever exposed to that was so driven to be successful and motivated to read books and self educate, to be the best. He was working hard on his golf game when it wasn’t really fashionable to do that. He was always a forward thinker and he carried that over with his schooling at university as well.”
Brunton took his thirst for learning to the University of Ottawa where he earned a Bachelor degree in Physical Education but even after he completed that work, he pushed himself to grow his knowledge. If there was a certification or course he could take to advance himself, he was all over it.
After becoming a member of the PGA of Canada Henry would use that knowledge in a series of positions at some of Canada’s finest clubs including Royal Montreal, Glen Abbey, Angus Glen, Lionhead, and Emerald Hills. He now calls Eagles Nest GC, located north of Toronto, the home of his performance academy, Henry Brunton Golf .
Awarded coveted status as a PGA Master Professional in 2008 (he was just the 23rd in association history) Brunton plans to continue his pioneering path in golf now that he has moved on from the National Team program. He credits the time with the program as one where he had tremendous personal and professional growth but knows that there are more opportunities ahead where he can share his knowledge and help lead the golfers of the future.
Canadian golf legend Doug Roxburgh, who worked alongside Henry in the National Team Program could not be more gracious in his respect for Brunton. “When I think of Henry Brunton and the time I spent with him I can’t think of anyone else with as much passion for the game. He has incredible knowledge and loves to share it – especially with the younger players that came into the national team program. Henry quite often had two or three books on the go – some golf but a lot were simply about learning and the principles of achieving high performance. He was a big part of our amateur success over the last decade and I know Canada will see many more young boys and girls come out of his academy at Eagle’s Nest.”