Last Updated on Sunday, 03 July 2016 21:22 Sunday, 03 July 2016 21:11
CALGARY, Alberta (Gord Montgomery/iG) — At some point in time, everyone goes through a dramatic change in life. Rarely though do they go through two such events in a short time like Calgarian Wes Heffernan.
Heffernan, a well-known name in Alberta, and Canadian, golf circles has seen his life transformed in two ways in the recent past, starting with the birth of his first child, a daughter. That in turn led to him to deciding to step away from the competitive golf world for a more stable payday with a full time gig as a teaching pro at the Golf Canada Centre.
“With that, you just don’t want to travel as much,” he said of watching his newborn beginning to discover life.
“And,” the 39-year-old, CFM (Candidate For Membership) continued, “I’m playing better now but the last two or three years had been a struggle so with all that happening it (stepping away) started to make sense and was something I was looking forward to, being home more.”
Reflecting on what he’s done in the golf world — a four-time winner on the Mackenzie (Canadian) Tour, playing in two U.S. Opens, and representing Canada in a pair of World Cup of Golf events plus a sterling amateur career, Heffernan is understandably proud of all those accomplishments. At the same time though, he realized it was time to move on although it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“Definitely. It is tough to step away from it but I am starting to enjoy this new phase in my life,” he explained.
The thing is, since he quit being a full time player he’s rediscovered his game. He’s won a team event and an individual tourney and had three other top-3 finishes on the PGA of Alberta pro circuit so far this year plus added a top professional finish at the Alberta Open. The reason for this resurgence of his game, he suggests, comes from finding the joy in the game again.
“I’ve kind of started to find it. It’s funny, as I started teaching I don’t get to play as much so when I do get to play, it’s almost kind of like a luxury. It’s almost like you start playing better because you enjoy it so much more again. It was tough to step away (from the competitive end) but I’m definitely starting to enjoy this new phase in my life.”
While he’s left the “big name” side of the golfing world, Heffernan is quick to agree there are still lots of good players on the Alberta tour. As such, he appreciates the challenges they throw at him every time he tees it up in competition.
“It’s all guys in a similar position. There are lots of guys in the PGA of Alberta that used to play on tour as well. So, there’s a lot of good players in Alberta obviously. These guys though don’t get to play as much as the guys on the Mackenzie Tour, the other tours, because that’s all they do, practice and play. When you’re working like the guys in the industry do, you don’t get that practice and play. The talent’s as good, we just don’t get to practice and get our games in shape as much. There have always been a lot of really good players in Alberta. And it’s a lot of fun to play against guys I know.”
There has been some adjustments to the new lifestyle he now has but it comes with benefits like being home every day, Heffernan explained. The thing is, the new role at work has been a bit of a challenge.
“It kind of depends on your personality,” he said of now guiding others in the game. “It’s a transition but being a good player doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher. So, this being my first year, not only am I teaching people but I’m learning as well.
“It’s kind of cool to switch from being so focused on playing to focused on ... you’re still focused on golf and helping people improve but it’s kind of in a different area of the game. It’s kind of a different challenge and ... competitive juices isn’t the right word but the same kind of striving for excellence.”
Heffernan credits his counterparts at the Golf Canada Centre with guiding him down the road to becoming a better teacher. He says they’ve all taken time to show him the ins and outs about how to work with all calibre of golfers.
“Definitely. With the playing career I’ve had I’ve had clients this year who were actually professionals. It’s nice to work with professionals but it’s also nice to work with high handicaps as well, help them enjoy the game. With those guys teaching, I think they respect what I’ve done in the game so they’re more than willing to help me and maybe learn a few things from me as well.”
Interestingly enough, the Calgary pro says he’s had a number of amateur students who have no idea who he is. As such they haven’t asked for him as a tutor by name but rather ended up under his wing through the luck of the draw.
“It’s a mix of both. Golf Canada Centre is very busy so it does get a lot of clients so I do get assigned people that don’t actually know I’ve ever played before, which is kind of interesting in itself,” said Heffernan. “There’s no expectations I guess, but I definitely have clients who know what I’ve done, so my playing career helps me out in that aspect, for sure.”
Like all teaching pros, Heffernan agrees he runs into students who expect an immediate cure for what ails them when they walk through his door. That though, he states, isn’t going to happen without one key ingredient in the golfing recipe.
“I think some people expect too much too quickly if they don’t practice,” he pointed out. “People get a lesson, go away for a month, don’t practice, come back and expect to be better. That’s just not going to happen.”
In closing, the world-class player/teacher, or is that teaching player, said he’s not going to totally rule out taking part in future high-end competitions but more than anything, his new life comes first. And yes, he’s very content with the decision he’s made.
“That’s kind of a question I don’t know the answer to right now,” he said of future professional playing plans. “I’m definitely enjoying the start to this year and playing better again. And with those PGA of Alberta events again, with guys I respect and have a lot of fun with. At the same time, I’ll play the odd Canadian Tour event here and the U.S. Qualifying (where he made it to Sectionals this year but had to bow out due to the timing).
“Trying to get into big events is definitely on the radar. My game is starting to feel good again but when you don’t practice, obviously you’re not going to play all those events at a high level if you’re not invested in it.
“So right now, my focus is on teaching and being with my family and we’ll go from there. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the Senior Tour is not too far off!”
About the Writer
Gord Montgomery is a retired sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He is now in his eighth year of writing for Inside Golf. He can be reached at email@example.com. He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf.
By Gord Montgomery
Gord Montgomery is a retired sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He is now in his ninth year of writing for Inside Golf. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf and on Instagram at @gordinsidegolf2.