Matt Hill or Nick Taylor — Which is Canada's Next Star?

matthillI was speaking with a sports agent associate the other day and he mentioned he’d be taking a quick trip to Ohio to see the NCAA finals, and specifically to watch Canadians Nick Taylor and Matt Hill. I asked which golfer he felt has a more promising future? In other words is Matt Hill, who hails from Brights Grove and whose brother Graham is also a standout, the new James Lepp, a once promising golfer that completely flamed out, or are his eight wins this year some sort of freakish golfer on a hot streak deal. The agent wasn’t sure — though he mentioned Taylor has been playing better longer, while Hill is lesser known.

That changed, of course, when Hill won the NCAA individual honors last week in a 54-hole tournament. Strange, the 54-hole part, but Hill played exceptionally well.

This whole season has just been amazing, especially the last three months, Hill said following his round. This is the icing on the cake. I never imagined anything like this when the season started. Its just been incredible.

Yesterday I was having lunch at Eagles Nest in Maple when RCGA national coach Henry Brunton stopped by my table. Brunton coaches out of Eagles Nest — and I asked him whether Hill was the real deal. The knock against Taylor is that he’s not particularly long off the tee, while Hill, who is bigger — 6-foot-2 — gets more out of his tee shots. Brunton said neither was massive off the tee, though Hill was longer. Taylor, on the other hand, could putt and chip like few others.

Brunton wouldn’t say which was the stronger prospect, only noting that Canada has probably never had two college prospects that were so highly regarded. Golfweek’s individual college rankings seem to agree — with Hill ranked #1 and Taylor at #8.

So what’s the plan going forward? Neither Hill nor Taylor have any interest in turning pro — at least not yet. However, should Hill win something bigger — the US Amateur or British Am — there would certainly be pressure on him to alter his course. Brunton said that offers are starting to pour in for Hill — he was recently offered a spot in a Nationwide Tour event — and that he’ll play a full schedule throughout the year.

But he has no interest in turning pro — at least that’s what he told a conference call of Canadian reporters last week:

Having conquered the college ranks in just his second season with the Wolfpack, it wouldn’t have been a big surprise to see the 20-year-old relinquish his amateur status, leave school and turn pro.

The native of Bright’s Grove, Ont., wants no part of that – he loves school too much.

“Absolutely,” Hill said Friday in a conference call. “I’ve excelled a lot in college my past two years already, and I feel like I can continue to get better and keep winning tournaments.

“I don’t quite feel like I’m ready to be pro right now. I feel like playing amateur golf and college golf will help me get that much better.” (Source: Canadian Press)

I think it is interesting that both Hill and Taylor are having success at a time when the people have been very critical of the RCGA and Brunton and Doug Roxburgh for not delivering top Canadian talent. Surely the last round of players — Andrew Parr, Richard Scott and Lepp — haven’t had the impact many expected. But with Hill and Taylor a couple of years away from the pro ranks, the situation looks promising. Of course there is a big question as to who is responsible for the development of Hill and Taylor. After all, Brunton said he had to call Roxburgh and insist Hill be added to the men’s national amateur team late last year — which suggests Hill wasn’t a frontrunner up until that point.

For what it is worth, Canada’s best golfer thinks Canada’s best amateur has a shot:

Weir, still looking to catch up to the young man to offer his congratulations, was speaking highly of him a few months ago, back when Hill’s magical season was just beginning.

“He’s impressive,” Weir told the Star then. “I had him out to California last winter and played some holes with him. He seems like a kid who’s got the passion for it. He’s really determined. I could tell he wants it.” (source: Toronto Star)

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thompson, what’s the deal with the split between Zokol & the RCGA?

    Care to phone the interested parties & get the details?

  • I think Richard wanted the role to evolve into more of a mentoring position with the country’s young pros and apparently the RCGA did not.

  • Robert, I think there is a great deal more to it than that. Kent Gilchrist had a good article on the rift in The Province earlier this week. Here’s a quote from Dick Zokol that was in the piece;

    “I interviewed all the players and talked to a lot of other people,” said Zokol. “The staff was very leery of me because I’m going to tell it like it is. They wanted me to endorse what they were doing and I told Scott (executive director Simmons, with whom Zokol says he has a “great relationship”) that I cannot endorse it. It hasn’t been successful for 10 years. It isn’t going to work now. It should be blown up and they should start over. I think the RCGA is out of touch”.

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