Kevin Blue, Golf Canada Chief Sport Officer
The performance of Canadian golfers on the world stage has improved significantly since the implementation of the Team Canada player development program in 2005. Canada is currently represented by 13 players with status on the LPGA or PGA TOUR, a substantial increase from the eight players with major tour status when the national team program was launched. Since 2014, members or graduates of the Team Canada Young Pro Squad have produced 50 professional tournament wins worldwide.
Canada is positioned to take another leap forward in global golf achievement. Today, Golf Canada is announcing an enhanced commitment to the Team Canada player development program. Our goal is for Canada to reach 30 players with status on the LPGA and PGA TOUR by 2032, completing our transformation into a truly world-class golfing country where Canadians are regularly in contention on both tours.
The pursuit of this ambitious goal is made possible by significant new philanthropic support from a group of generous donors who are making major gifts to fund enhancements in the Team Canada player development program—beginning with an investment of $13.5 million through Golf Canada Foundation to support the strategic goals of the program.
Paul McLean, CEO of Turf Care and former president of Golf Canada and Golf Canada Foundation has made a lead gift of $5 million to increase the breadth and depth of financial support for Canadian players across the stages of development for the next ten years. Paul has been a pillar of the Canadian golf community with close relationships to many Canadian touring professionals. We are grateful for Paul’s leadership and support.
Major gifts have also been committed by The Kavelman Fonn Foundation, John Francis, Jean Monty, David Kaufman, Steve Lister and Dr. Molly Rundle, and a pair of donors who wished to remain anonymous creating an initial pool of $13.5M in incremental funding to support new player development investments over the next decade. These generous donors are part of the Golf Canada Foundation Trustee program, which provides critical philanthropic support for important Canadian golf initiatives such as player development and First Tee. Golf Canada Foundation is continuing to identify Trustees who are interested in supporting the Team Canada player development program and expanding First Tee across Canada.
Our ambitious strategy for player development is based on extensive research over the past year along with input from stakeholders in Canadian high-performance golf – including those involved at the very highest levels of the professional game. The full analysis and strategic plan can be read in draft form here. In addition, we invite you to attend Golf Canada’s virtual annual general meeting on March 2 for an in-depth presentation about the future of the player development system in Canada.
In summary, Golf Canada’s updated player development strategy includes the following priorities:
- Sharpen the specific focus of the player development system on the objective of increasing the number of Canadian players on the LPGA and PGA TOUR, with the goal of 30 players on these tours by 2032.
- Foster an open and inclusive culture of collaboration among all stakeholders in Canadian high-performance golf – including players, coaches, facilities, professional tours, and provincial associations.
- Invest in Canada’s player development system at a level that matches and competes with aspirational peers like Australia and England.
- In partnership with PGA of Canada, increase the depth and diversity of Canadian coaching talent.
- Broaden the player development system at the junior level by including more players in the national program and creating a national talent identification system for the most promising early-stage juniors.
- Combine late-stage amateurs and young pro players into an expanded Team Canada cohort that is singularly focused on helping players to launch and sustain successful professional golf careers. Team Canada – NextGen, currently called the National Junior Squad, will include both juniors and developing amateurs. These changes will occur in 2023.
- Provide housing and training facility access in the US for transitioning professional players.
- Increase the breadth and depth of support for young professional players. Assign funding based on an individualized analysis of specific player needs.
- Pay particular attention to off course support in areas such as mental health. Ensure a supportive environment that is in full compliance with Safe Sport policies.
- Create a need-based system of financial aid for junior and amateur players in the player development program to ensure that financial assistance is provided to families with the most significant financial needs.
- Build a digital library of educational resources featuring Canadian tour player role models that is available to aspiring Canadian players and their families.
- Refine the analytics used to evaluate player development progress. Emphasize a data-driven and methodical approach.
- Re-evaluate the infrastructure and pathway for Canadian professional women’s golf. Develop alternatives to the four-year NCAA pathway while maintaining educational opportunities for the most advanced women. Increase the number of domestic professional playing opportunities for women.
- Especially emphasize how we can support the development of Canadian golf champions from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, building on the more diverse participation base that will be created by First Tee – Canada.
These items will be implemented over the course of 2022 and 2023. One of the first enhancements to occur will be the creation of a national infrastructure for identifying and developing the most promising early-stage juniors in Canada (i.e., ages 10-14). Over time, this infrastructure will increase the volume of high-performing juniors in Canada who have the potential to develop into LPGA and PGA TOUR players.
To move forward with this system enhancement, Team Canada Women’s Head Coach Tristan Mullally will transition to the newly created position of National Talent Identification Director. In this new capacity, Tristan will provide additional resources to parents and coaches who work with the most promising young juniors in Canada and provide direct coaching to identified early-stage juniors who don’t otherwise have local coaching support. He will also facilitate the development and implementation of local talent identification camps in every province. Tristan’s globally recognized technical skills and extensive experience with elite players will be a significant asset for helping to accelerate the development of Canada’s most promising young juniors.
Tristan’s transition into this new role will occur gradually over the next several months. A search will begin immediately for a head coach to oversee the women’s program and for an additional assistant coach to complete the remainder of the women’s coaching staff.
Many people across our country are deeply passionate about Canadian golf and excited for Canada to continue its emergence as a world-class golfing country. Every stakeholder in the Canadian golf industry is involved in developing Canada’s top players in one way or another. Golf facility operators create affordable opportunities for competitive juniors to access courses, PGA of Canada professionals provide important mentorship and coaching to young players, and partners and philanthropists provide critical support so the Team Canada player development program can be resourced for global success. Our goal is to unify the entire Canadian golf community behind this player development effort, as our Canadian players have the best chance to emerge on the world stage when everyone is part of the journey with them.
If you’d like to ask questions, provide feedback about our plan, or find out more about becoming a donor to the program, please send us an email using this link.
Go Canada Go!
|Kevin Blue, Ph. D.|
Chief Sport Officer