Almost every Canadian athlete who makes a national team describes the rush of emotion when for the first time they are handed their Maple Leaf-emblazoned kit.
“It was pretty overwhelming to see the Golf Canada logos on the bag and the clothing and to know you will be using it and wearing it next year,” said Willy Bishop of Victoria Club, named to the 2021 national men’s junior team.
He is part of a Bear market for golfers. The nation’s top young players will be assembling in Langford, from March to June, for the fourth year since Golf Canada opened its national training centre on Bear Mountain in 2018. There will be a local golfer in the mix for the third time, with not far to go to the Bear. Bishop follows previously centralized national team players Nolan Thoroughgood of Royal Colwood and Jeevan Sihota of Gorge Vale.
“This is so big for my career and will teach me to be a better player,” said Bishop.
His naming to the national junior team, through the selection tournament in September on Bear Mountain, capped a breakout season in which Bishop won both the 2020 B.C. junior (U-19) and 2020 B.C. juvenile (U-17) championships.
“It’s been a big year for me and I finished strongly,” he said.
“But I’d rather be the guy doing the chasing than being the guy to beat. Less pressure that way.”
Well, good luck with that. Those days seem like they are long gone for Bishop.
Already the U.S. university NCAA interest in him has begun and he has fielded preliminary calls despite only being in Grade 11 at Claremont Secondary.
“I would love to take my game to a good university and see where it goes from there,” said Bishop.
He has plenty of recent Island role models with Thoroughgood and Keaton Gudz in the NCAA with the Oregon State Beavers and 2020 B.C. amateur champion Tristan Mandur of Mill Bay also in the Pac-12 with the University of Utah Utes.
“It’s great to be following this golf talent coming out of the Island,” said Bishop.
Whatever the future holds, Bishop said he will never lose that feeling of sheer pleasure he has derived from playing the game from a young age. He also played lacrosse coming up but always knew golf was going to be his game.
“I went to summer golf camps as a nine- and 10-year-old at Royal Colwood and had such a fun time and it has continued since,” said Bishop.
Golf Canada announced 29 male and female athletes who have been selected to represent Team Canada as part of the 2021 national amateur and junior squads, 15 on the amateur team and 14 on the junior team.
Robert Ratcliffe and Jennifer Greggain, both of Comox, will coach the centralized juniors on Bear Mountain. Players will have the support of the Team Canada sport science staff, which includes physiotherapist Greg Redman, psychologist Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, physiotherapist Andrea Kosa and mental performance consultant Christie Gialloreto. The juniors will also receive support from the Canadian Sport Institute-Victoria, located at PISE, the areas of strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, mental performance and nutrition.
“Team Canada has shown tremendous success … with the centralized training program at Bear Mountain,” said Laurence Applebaum, Golf Canada CEO, in a statement.
“We will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 to ensure the health and well-being of the athletes and coaches. We now look ahead to helping shape the bright futures of Canada’s top up-and-coming athletes looking to follow in the footsteps of graduates such as Brooke Henderson, Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes.”