Coming from a hockey background, Ashton McCulloch found the sport of golf a little bit too slow for his liking when he was first introduced to it. But after picking it back up in his teenage years, the Kingston, Ontario native has since developed a passion for the game and has emerged as one of the most promising amateurs in the country.
“My dad was an avid golfer and he wanted me to get started in the sport at a young age. I was seven when I first started but coming from a hockey background, I found the game a little slow. I stopped playing and didn’t pick it back up until I was 13,” recalls the now 20-year-old.
As a former goaltender, he appreciates how playing that position may be beneficial to his overall approach on the golf course.
“I guess being a goalie you have the mentality of being by yourself and you learn how to bounce back; and that carries over to golf,” McCulloch reasoned.
The second year member of Golf Canada’s National Team Program says his dad, John McCulloch, gave him some great advice which he implements to this day.
“The best advice my dad gave me was the importance of practicing with a purpose. It comes down to how diligent you are when you practice because practice makes permanent.”
Taking his dad’s advice and McCulloch got his first golf membership at the age of 14. After putting in the work in practice to improve his skills, he would enter his first tournament at the club’s annual championship later that year.
“I shot a 79 which was my first time breaking 80. And to do that in my first tournament was pretty awesome,” he pointed out.
After that eye opening result in his first tournament, McCulloch would work even harder to improve all areas of his game. And his disciplined efforts would lead to multiple rewards.
In 2021, he won the Glencoe Invitational and followed that up by winning the British Columbia Men’s Amateur Championship.
National Team men’s head coach, Derek Ingram, speaks highly of McCulloch’s work ethic and dedication to the sport.
“Ashton has a work ethic similar to Corey (Conners) and Mac (Hughes). He works hard on all areas of her game and is smart and committed. Also, similar to those guys, he’s going to a northern school and a school that plays a good schedule,” said Ingram about McCulloch who is currently in his second year at Michigan State University.
The talented 20-year-old is grateful that his involvement in the National Team Program has provided him with the opportunity to compete in high profile tournaments that he would not otherwise gain entry into.
“I’m not from British Columbia but being part of Golf Canada’s junior boys program gave me the opportunity to spend a winter training there and gave me the chance to compete the B.C. AM,” he noted.
“My aunt and uncle and cousins live out in B.C. and it was the first time they got to see me playing golf and see me doing what I love. It was a great feeling to win it with them there.”
McCulloch says consistency has been a key to his success on the golf course.
“I don’t do anything spectacular but I also don’t do anything to get myself in trouble. I would say I’m very steady and consistent out there and just try to do what I’m supposed to,” he noted when asked to describe his game.
McCulloch is studying engineering at Michigan State University on a full golf scholarship. The talented Canadian had a stellar rookie season and earned Big 10 Freshman of the Year honours. Currently, in his sophomore year, McCulloch has the goal of playing on the PGA Tour one day.
Ingram sees a lot of potential in the highly touted amateur, and in understanding his tremendous work ethic, the National Team men’s head coach outlines some key areas that McCulloch will have to focus on and work on in order to have the best chance to make his dream a reality.
“Ashton has to get longer and stronger – not unlike just about anyone based on the way the game is going. And he has to tidy up his short game,” Ingram pointed out.
“Then Ashton has to play against the best amateurs in the world and be able to learn, grow and refine his game from those experiences,” he added.
Ingram notes that by being part of the National Team Program, McCulloch will have the resources and support to help him reach his full potential on the golf course.
“Ashton now has a group of team members and alumni to support, lead and push him to see how good he can be,” said Ingram.
“We know the average Canadian playing on the PGA Tour takes over five years to make it onto the Tour. It’s a long process and journey so every player with the ability needs to be in it for the long haul.”
For his part, McCulloch is grateful for all the support he gets through the National Team Program. And he’s prepared to make a commitment to doing everything within his control to be successful.
“The depth of support we get in terms of coaching and resources is just a huge advantage. I have had so much success since being part of Golf Canada and I see so much more to come,” said McCulloch.
“We get so many opportunities that we wouldn’t otherwise get like playing in big tournaments in Canada and around the world. I’m just grateful to be part of the Program and to be able to learn from the experiences, the coaches, and those who have been through the program before,” he continued.
“By being part of the Program, I feel like I’m on the right track. Still, I know there’s a lot of work that is required to reach my goals but I’m committed to putting in the work to reach them.”