The Golf Canada program (in partnership with PGA of Canada) to support athletes got a little stronger Monday night with the introduction of the new Team Canada Young Pro Program.
For years Golf Canada has been developing the top amateur talent in the country but one question always remained. What happens after they leave these Long Term Player Development Programs and begin their professional careers?
The problem is that although many of these players are leaving the amateur ranks at the age of 22, many need time and support to establish themselves professionally. Often they never get that far, robbing them of the potential to ever become a top professional.
The new program is a step in the right direction, not only bringing support to a number of athletes but also bringing awareness to “the gap” that exists between being a highly rated amateur and a professional golfers who is ready, for the most part, to stand on their own.
Selected to be part of the new initiative are Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Jennifer Kirby, Sue Kim, Albin Choi, and Mackenzie Hughes.
“There has been a critical gap for our top amateur golfers making the difficult jump to professional golf and the launch of the Team Canada Young Pro initiative is designed to bridge that gap,” said Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons. “We have seen tremendous results for Team Canada amateur athletes at national, international and collegiate competitions. With the launch of Young Pro, we expect those strong results to carry over to the professional ranks including the PGA and LPGA Tours, the various developmental tours and ultimately the Olympic Games beginning in 2016.”
On the women’s side all three golfers have status on the LPGA Tour for 2014. Each is a graduate of the Golf Canada National Amateur Team.
“I feel so fortunate to once again, have the opportunity to be a part of a program that is so dedicated to developing players,” said Rebecca Lee-Bentham. “Golf Canada, without a doubt, has helped me tremendously throughout my amateur career and has led me to where I am today. It is an honour to represent Canada each week on the LPGA tour and having the opportunity to play for Canada at the Olympics would mean more than words can describe.”
“I am incredibly grateful to have been selected for the Young Pro program,” said Jennifer Kirby. “Golf Canada has always been supportive of my career and I am proud to be an ambassador of this important program in my inaugural season on the LPGA Tour.”
I know that with the launch of the Young Pro program, I will get the support I need to further my career and be successful on the LPGA Tour,” said Sue Kim. “Even from my time with the Amateur Team, the coaching staff has gone above and beyond to help develop players.”
On the men’s side, Web.com Tour players Mackenzie Hughes and Albin Choi debut as the first two male members of the Team Canada Young Pro program. A two-time Canada Amateur champion, Hughes, 23, finished the 2013 season atop PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit after capturing the Cape Breton Celtic Classic. Choi, 22, is also a former Canadian Amateur champion who earned his ticket to the Web.com Tour after a 15th place finish at final qualifying in December.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of Team Canada and the new young pro squad,” said Mackenzie Hughes. “The coaching and support staff has played a big role in my development and my transition to pro golf. I also want to thank the Golf Canada Foundation as well as all the sponsors and donors that have made this program possible.”
I am very excited to be back with the national team and part of the program,” added Albin Choi. “I have been with Team Canada for over six years and have always appreciated the support and having a team around me. Most pros lose that support structure from a national or college team as soon as they turn pro and it’s easy to get lost. It’s great to have an opportunity to have a team behind me with my best interests in mind.”
Each member of the Young Pro squad will receive funding as well as access to Team Canada’s coaching staff and sport science experts. Men’s National Squad coach Derek Ingram and Women’s National Team coach Tristan Mullally will provide coaching to their respective Young Pro players. In addition, the athletes will have access to Team Canada’s sport science staff that includes psychologist, Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, strength and conditioning coach, Jason Glass, nutritionist, Nicole Springle and physiotherapist Greg Redman.
“I congratulate Golf Canada on the launch of this exceptional program,” said PGA of Canada CEO Gary Bernard. “The commitment Golf Canada has shown in collaborating with the PGA of Canada in our world class teaching and coaching certification programs is commendable.”
The Team Canada Young Pro initiative has been in the works for more than a year as an extension of Golf Canada’s National Amateur Team program. The 2014 launch is a direct result of the fundraising support of the Golf Canada Foundation.
“On behalf of the board of the Golf Canada Foundation, we’re proud to help support these talented young golfers in their pursuit of competitive golfing excellence,” said Golf Canada Foundation CEO Martin Barnard. “In the coming months, we look forward to announcing more fundraising activities as well as donors and corporate partners to extend the program to more Canadian athletes.”