Allen McGee – The Competitor
For anyone who has played golf against Allen McGee, they know he will fight for every stroke on the golf course. They also know that when the round is over, animosity is the last thing on his mind. The gregarious Kanata golfer will tell you that golf is not about loving or hating your competitor, it’s about getting the most out of your game – playing the golf course to the best of your ability.
That formula seems to be working out nicely for the three-time winner of the Ottawa City & District Champion and honouree of the Ottawa Sports Award for Golf the last four years.
In the last five years McGee, a Sales Manager for Dynamic Forest Products, has put his mark on amateur golf in Eastern Ontario. There are few events that he has not won, contended in, or had a high finish. Basically – if he is in the field he has to be respected.
Now 38, McGee’s first passion was hockey but golf changed his life. After he broke his wrist at the age of 15 he decided to take up golf seriously. Until then, between the ages of 10 and 15, he had only played golf about five times a year but says he was intrigued by it.
After the injury golf grew to be Allen’s favourite pursuit but he was a well-rounded athlete. At Earl of March High school he played basketball, volleyball, soccer, golf, and he competed in track and field at the EOSSAA and OFSAA level.
McGee says his parents were very supportive of him in his pursuit of sports. “They drove me everywhere I had to go.”
But his favourite spot was always to the Kanata Golf Club, where his father was a member, and where he pursued golf with a growing enthusiasm and ability.
His first lesson, at the age of 10, had been with the legendary Earl Stimpson over at the 19th tee driving range but his game really developed when he started working at the Kanata Golf Club at age 15.
“Gerry McKee took me under his wing and I’ve been seeing Gerry ever since,” says of the man who was the pro at Kanata from 1968-1990. “Every once and a while he would spot something and show me how to make it better.”
Al admits he was not always the best behaved junior, mostly due to his competitive nature. “I’ve always been a competitive person and going from team sports to an individual sport I didn’t like to be beaten; I didn’t like not being good at it. If I started off bogey, bogey, bogey, my day was pretty much over. I was definitely fiery,” he admits.
Al jokes that he really started to harness himself and his emotions once he had to pay for the clubs he broke.
His game progressed tremendously in those early summers. Playing 36 holes a day was not uncommon and by the time he was 16 he found himself playing in the finals of the men’s club championship.
Soon he was playing outside golf tournaments, making a Québec team that would travel to matches in New York State, and he eventually would play in the Canadian Junior Championship.
Things were not always rosy though, even as he moved on to playing golf at High Point University in North Carolina where he would complete a Bachelor Degree as a Business Administration Major. It wasn’t the ideal time for McGee’s golf game to go south, from a playing standpoint.
Al was in the midst of some equipment changes and he struggled to find a fairway. It was likely the genesis for his tendency today to find a club that works and stick with it.
At High Point Al says he learned a lot about the game even though they had a golf coach who didn’t do much more than drive the bus. During his time there the team transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division 1 and they made it to two national championships. “It was a fun time. I really wasn’t a great player. I had a couple top finishes and tied for eighth at nationals once, that was about it.”
Of course, Al says this in retrospective. At the time he thought he was a pretty good player but he admits it wasn’t until after he was at college that he realized what playing good golf was all about.
“I thought I was good because I shot 68 or 69 every now and then; now I expect to shoot that score every time I tee it up. I really was a legitimate 3 or 4 handicap thinking I was a scratch.”
After school was over Al was set to work at the Tucson National Resort in Arizona but was not able to secure a work visa. Instead he and girlfriend (now wife) Tara headed for Australia for more than half a year. There he had hoped to turn pro and play the Australasian tour but as he says, “I liked the beach too much so I played some amateur events instead.”
In 2000 Al gave the Canadian Tour school a try but did not get through. Making 6 three putts in the final round to miss by just a couple strokes did teach him something, however. “That was probably my biggest lesson in golf – not to take 2 and 3 foot putts for granted. I always mark them now.”
After another unsuccessful try at Canadian Q-School in March 2001 and with a new son, Hunter, at home, Al finally realized he really wasn’t ready and it was time to get a “real job” to support the family and put pro golf aspirations behind him. He did play Pro-Ams for a couple years and did well in them, wining several, but the writing seemed to be on the wall for his career as a golf professional.
That decision to be an amateur golfer looked even better when daughter Zoe came along a few years later.
In turning his attention back to the amateur game in 2003 McGee learned that he could have a much better way of life. “I found that I could have my passion, golf, with my family, and a career all at the same time. “
In some ways it appears to have freed up McGee and allowed him to really play to his potential. It was around that time that he also met Chris Bernard, another former pro returned to the amateur game. “I can honestly say meeting him was the biggest turning point in my golf. We talked a lot about my game and why I was trying to play it the way I did; especially when it came to how I drove the ball. I learned to really play the game by playing with him.”
Since then Allen has blossomed into the amateur golfer most know of today – one that is respected by his peers.
“The game has changed a lot for me. I don’t practice but I don’t have any pressure on myself and I feel confident in how I play. My short game is not as good as it used to be but that that’s the trade-off with having lots more things in life besides golf.”
For now McGee is happy teeing it up at the regional level – he does not have a lot of time to play a full schedule of provincial golf, but in time he still sees himself looking again at the pro game.
“If I can keep myself in shape then I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to try for the Senior Tour; that’s my goal.”
In the meantime he will keep putting his full effort into every golf event he enters. Club Championships (Hautes Plaines, The Marshes, Eagle Creek, and Kanata), the Garrison Open, the Flagstick Shootout, OVGA 4-Ball Championships, OVGA Field Days, Ottawa Sun Scramble Championships, and the OVGA City & District Championships are just some of the wins on his burgeoning resume.
“I enjoy playing. Every time I tee it up I want to win but it is really about getting the most out of myself. If that happens to be enough to win then it’s great. I just love to play golf right now.”
It sounds like a solid strategy and based on Allen McGee’s record, the results seem to justify the well-balanced approach.