Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 April 2008 01:58 Tuesday, 29 April 2008 01:47
And a real challenge within the challenge is convincing the young ladies among our youth that the game is prepared to welcome them. At the elite level, Nancy Harvey, Lori Kane, A.J. Eathorne, Dawn Coe-Jones and Gail Graham have represented Canada on the LPGA Tour over the past couple of decades. They are esteemed role models, women who have produced success on the world stage. Of late, the torch seems to have been passed to Alena Sharp, perhaps our country's top player now in the professional ranks.
Graham, who now resides in Atlanta, Georgia, has had a particularly positive impact on a young Okanagan Valley golfer, Megan Osland. The spunky 14-year-old, a student at Dr. Knox Middle School in Kelowna, has been competing since she was nine years old and has become a committed, talented, competitive player.
"I started at some golf camps when I was younger and then got into the junior nights at Vintage Hills in Westbank," Osland said when asked by Inside Golf Magazine about here formative years. "I joined the Junior Linksters program out there and toured around the Okanagan a little bit. That turned into playing some competitive golf."
For a time, Osland was an active two-sport athlete, busy with hockey as well. As she excelled in both, she recognized the total time commitment was becoming more and more significant. When the time came for her to make a choice, she knew there would be a huge difference playing golf as an individual rather than hockey within a team concept.
"I was playing Pee Wee AAA hockey in Kelowna and we won the provincial championship a couple years in a row," Osland said. "It's a real commitment playing at that level and I began to find it was overlapping with the time I wanted to spend playing golf. I just decided that I'd rather pursue the golf instead of hockey.
"In golf it's all up to you and you don't have a team behind you. You have to make decisions yourself. It's really an individual game, a mental game. You probably do just as much traveling, you know, both sports certainly require a lot of travel. I just like working on my personal game in golf, figuring out what I need to do to improve physically and mentally."
While junior golf is an individual game during competition, there is a team element if one includes the work done during practice sessions with teaching professionals. Osland is happy to have had the opportunities to work with Gail Graham and now with her brother, Rob Anderson at the Harvest Golf Club.
"Gail worked with me a lot," Osland said. "We did a lot of practicing together and she really helped me improve. Rob does the same. He's helped with warm up routines and we talk quite a bit about competitive golf, nutrition and all the things that have to do with preparing for competition."
A highlight for Osland came last year when she traveled to Edmonton to watch the CN Canadian Women's Open, a tournament won by the world's number one player, Lorena Ochoa. Graham was also there, in a television broadcasting capacity with Roger's Sportsnet.
"I really liked watching Lorena," Osland said. "We followed her on the last day. It was really good to see and to try and understand why they take the time they do to hit each shot and also to see how accurate they are.
"They're all about my size, it seems. But they are strong and powerful. And they really seem to communicate well with their caddies, too."
For Rick Osland, Megan's father, there is a financial commitment involved in addition to playing other key roles, as in that of a chauffeur.
"I'm self employed, so I am able to work my schedule around Megan's somewhat," he was saying. "This year, Megan has to play more of the tournaments on the Lower Mainland because that's where there are stronger fields. In the Okanagan there are probably just a handful of girls who play the more competitive golf. Unfortunately for those girls, to find the stronger competition and the better tournaments, they have to go to the coast to find those events with the larger fields.
"The players there have already been playing tournaments, there's almost an event every weekend. At this level, Megan is looking at the Future Links tournaments, which are RCGA sponsored events. These are on Vancouver Island and in Ponoka, Alberta (July) this year. If all goes well, she'll go on to nationals at the St. Charles GC in Winnipeg in August.
"We obviously have to budget for these trips."
With an eye on both the past and the long-term future, the notion of college scholarships has entered into some discussions. After all, the prospect of one's skill effectively serving to pay for an education has some merit. However, Megan's father has elected not to put the cart before the horses just yet.
"Megan certainly wants to go to university, but I think she's playing the game right now foremost because it's fun," the elder Osland said. "When or if the time comes, if there is a school she wants to go to that was to offer her a scholarship, we would certainly look at that.
"But we're not in it for scholarships. Megan is in it because she loves the game."
Glen Erickson is a Kelowna-based freelance writer, entering his sixth year as a contributor to Inside Golf Magazine.