Vanessa Borovilos Masters Drive, Chip & Putt Championship

By: Brent Long

BURLINGTON, ON – For an eight-year-old, Vanessa Borovilos has an impressive collection of trophies and medals, but the one that earned an invite to Augusta National Golf Club and the 2015 Masters is extra special.

The Grade 3 student from Toronto is one of three Canadians, among a total of 80 participants, 40 boys and 40 girls between the ages of seven and 15, who will tee it up in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship on the Sunday before the Masters at Augusta National.

“It’s pretty amazing to be going to the Masters. We’re flying in an airplane which should be fun and I’m really looking forward to the competition,” says Borovilos, who started working with Coach Doug Lawrie from Focus Golf Group in Burlington, last summer and will play and train out of Trafalgar Golf & Country Club in 2015.

She is proving to be a fierce little competitor as she made it through three stages of qualifying in Michigan to punch her ticket. “There’s a lot of standing around and waiting for this one, but to be going to Augusta during the Master and staying for a practice round it very cool,” says Borovilos, who started mini-putting at the age of two-and-a-half and had her first set of clubs by the time she was three.

Vanessa will not be the only Canadian competing in the girl’s 7 to 9 age division. Jayla Kucy from Camrose, AB won local qualifying in Dupont, Washington, a sub-regional event in Lacey, Washington, and then a regional final in Park City, Utah to qualify for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. Ryan Blair from Oakbank, MB also won the regional finals of the boy’s 10 & 11 age bracket in Minneapolis, Minnesota to earn his spot in the championship.

Borovilos won two qualifiers at different courses in Michigan in June and August to advance to the regional final in September at Prestwick Village GC in Highland Michigan. There she won the overall title, with victories in chipping and putting – and she’s working on the driving for the Masters.

“It’s a lot of driving around to get to the different qualifiers. When you’re there, it’s a lot of waiting because they get two drives and you wait for everyone else, next it’s three chips and you wait again and finally they get three putts and that’s it, but for a trip to the Masters and to compete against the best from across the United States, it’s worth it and I think she’s going to have a great time at Augusta,” says her father Dino who will accompany Vanessa along with her mother and brother. There’s also a players’ dinner to attend at Augusta National the evening before the championship.

At only eight years of age, Vanessa is a seasoned competitor and traveller. She started playing the Canadian Junior Golf Association tours at age five against eight and nine-year-old, has played twice at US Kids World Championship including a trip to Pinehurst Resort, she has been to the Callaway World Junior Golf Championship in San Diego where she finished sixth in the six and under division and teed it up at Doral and PGA National as part of the First Tee Program in the United States.

To prepare Vanessa trains three hours each Saturday with Coach Lawrie including some ping pong to work on her eye-hand coordination. Dad takes his daughter to the Golf Dome three nights a week to practice what they worked on during the coaching session. “We have made some pretty big changes to her swing over the winter and I’m excited to see how it plays out at Augusta and into the summer,” says Lawrie who is the Head Coach for the Golf Association of Ontario NXTee Youth Golf Program. “She doesn’t like losing and she has that calmness and confidence around her when she’s competing that you don’t see in every youngster.”

When she grows up, Vanessa would like to be just like American LPGA star Lexi Thompson, who turned pro at the age of 15. “I would like to jump into that pond, just like Lexi,” Vanessa told her father after watching Thompson win the Kraft-Nabisco Championship in 2014.

Regardless of how she does at Augusta in April, Vanessa has signed up for the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.  If she’s successful at the sub-regionals in Buffalo, she’ll advance to the regional final at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania and perhaps a return trip to the Masters in 2016.

FORE Golf Program gets a jumpstart from Canadian Tire and Sport Chek

By: Brent Long

HAMILTON, ON – Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and Nevada Bob’s Golf at Sport Chek are partnering with the City of Hamilton to take its youth F.O.R.E. Golf program to the next level.

The City of Hamilton launched Fun, Organized, Recreational, Enjoyment (F.O.R.E.) Golf in February 2014. The initiative of the Recreation Department is designed to engage at risk youth between the ages of 10 to 15, who would not otherwise have the financial resources, to learn to play through a series of free indoor and outdoor lessons at the city’s two golf clubs; King’s Forest Golf Club and Chedoke Civic Golf Club.

Organizers promoted the new program through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hamilton and Burlington and a few neighbourhood schools. Before they knew it 40 youngsters were swinging golf clubs for the very first time in their lives and having fun learning.

“With the addition of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and Nevada Bob’s Golf at Sport Chek at Eastgate Mall as partners, the program will be expanded to 60 at risk youth this year,” says Jesse Williamson, Recreation Development Consultant with the City of Hamilton. “The boys and girls who took part in the program last year had a wonderful time. You could see the joy of learning to hit a ball in their smiles. I’m delighted we now have the relationship with Jumpstart and Nevada Bob’s in place that will allow us to grow the program and perhaps allow it to go national down the road.”

From January through March 2014, the F.O.R.E. Golf team conducted a community wide equipment drive that collect over 1,000 used golf clubs at the Chedoke Civic GC golf shop and produced 85 full sets of clubs. Each child who completed one of the programs received a free set of used clubs so they could continue to learn and play.

Three sessions are available this winter/spring starting on Tuesday evenings in February and March at King’s Forest GC and on Tuesday evenings in March and April at Chedoke Civic GC where the youngsters will have the opportunity to use the city’s new Multi-Sport Simulator, followed by an outdoor experience at Chedoke from April 28th to May 19th.

“Canadian Tire Jumpstart is proud to be a partner with the City of Hamilton for its F.O.R.E. Golf program.  Golf is one of those sports that can be out of reach for a lot of families due to cost, so to be able to introduce more youth to this sport, whom would otherwise not have a chance to try it, is a perfect fit for us.  Hopefully some of these kids will go on to enjoy the game of golf for the rest of their lives, and who knows, maybe there is another Mike Weir amongst them!” says Harry Bell, Regional Manager of Jumpstart Charities for Hamilton-Niagara and South Western Ontario.

“We are really looking forward to introducing the game of golf to a whole new group of children this spring and hopefully they’ll be able to spend their summer playing golf and making friends,” say PGA of Canada Head Professional Mark Arnett who leads the teaching team along with Associate Professional Kyle Gibson. “This truly is a grassroots initiative that will open doors and get kids off their electronic screens and into a natural setting where they can play and learn the traditions of this great game,” Arnett added.