Vancouver Province writer Kent Gilchrist, last seen interviewing Richard Zokol and bashing the RCGA’s player development program, does an about face given the success of both Vernon’s Chris Baryla, who made the Top 25 on the Nationwide Tour, and Graham DeLaet, who won in South Africa a couple of weeks back
“Could it be that the player development program instituted by the Royal Canadian Golf Association more than a decade ago is about to reap some plaudits after all this time?” Gilchrist asks.
Interesting about face — and all it took, apparently, was a couple of months. In June, Gilchrist was calling the RCGA’s player development program “a failure.”
Here’s his perspective now:
Graham DeLaet, runner-up to Mike Grob at the Canadian Tour’s City of Surrey at Hazelmere back in June, became the second former RCGA national team member to win in as many weeks. On Monday, DeLaet won the BMG Classic on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa to follow Chris Baryla’s win on the Nationwide the previous week.
Baryla is on the threshold of gaining his PGA Tour money clip with only this week’s limited field Nationwide Tour Championship left on the 2009 schedule. He’s six spots inside the top 25 who will graduate to the 2010 PGA Tour.
DeLaet, who guaranteed he’ll have a winter tour to play with his performance in South Africa, is exempt to second stage of PGA Tour Q School because he won the Canadian Tour’s order of merit with $94,579.
Baryla is 26 and DeLaet is 25 and with amateurs Nick Taylor of Abbotsford and Matt Hill — U.S. college seniors ranked first and fourth in the world by the R&A — it would seem Canada will be well placed by the time golf is included in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I messaged both Chris and Graham,” said Doug Roxburgh, the only director of player development the RCGA program has ever had. “I congratulated them and mentioned the Olympics and suggested they’d be representing us.
“It’s fantastic that golf is in the Olympics. Certainly, Graham was involved in provincial (Weyburn, Sask.) and RCGA programs and Chris was on one national team. It’s a hard thing to really measure all that stuff.”
But should anyone be claiming the RCGA’s program is a success because of DeLaet and Baryla, clearly products of the NCAA system (DeLaet played at Boisie, while Baryla played at Texas El Paso)?
The truth be told, from the outside looking in it would appear that Canadian men’s golf is in great shape. Beside DeLaet and Baryla, there’s still Jon Mills and Dustin Risdon heading to the final stage of Q-School, and the amateur twins of Nick Taylor and Matt Hill lurking a year or two away. As Jason Logan at Score points out, new PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler, formerly a top amateur, was actually ranked behind Hill and Taylor.
What does all of this mean? Nothing — yet. Baryla could continue his rise on the PGA Tour, or follow in the footsteps of David Hearn and Jon Mills and struggle with the leap to the next level. DeLaet might not even get his PGA Tour card, though he’s had a terrific year regardless. Hill and Taylor might not make convincing jumps to the pro ranks.
All of these thing could happen — or a couple of Canada’s best could turn into legitimate heirs to Stephen Ames and Mike Weir. And if that’s the case, the RCGA deserves some of the credit, though certainly not all of it. For Gilchrist it seems the glass is either empty or full — when the truth is likely somewhere inbetween.