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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – There is plenty of camaraderie among the Team Canada members, even though golf is an individual sport.
Sure, they compete against one another on a weekly basis. But at the end of the day, they are friends and most importantly teammates on an exclusive squad for which only five players a year qualify.
At this week’s U.S. Amateur in suburban Atlanta, four of Team Canada’s five members are competing. On Wednesday, half of those players advanced to the Round of 32: Corey Conners, of Listowel, Ontario, and Garrett Rank, of Elmira, Ontario. Each won his respective match. Canadians Taylor Pendrith and Adam Svensson lost.
The victories didn’t come as easily as either might have hoped.
Conners, a recent Kent State graduate, made a clutch 6-foot par putt on No. 18 to secure his win against World No. 5 Scottie Scheffler. Rank, meanwhile, advanced through the 17-for-4 playoff Wednesday morning, then finished off opponent Jimmy Beck in the afternoon with a two-putt birdie at the 18th hole.
Good play from Team Canada’s players didn’t just start this week. It has been ongoing since the beginning of the summer golf season. At nearly every top amateur tournament, a Canadian has been on the leaderboard.
Rank has been in contention almost week in and week out, from the Monroe Invitational to the Players Amateur and in his national amateur last week. Conners has been a strong contender in 2013 and ’14 Canadian Amateurs. Add Pendrith, who came up just short at the Canadian Amateur last week, and Svensson, who won seven tournaments last year as a sophomore at Division II Barry University, and Team Canada is loaded with talent, eh?
“We’ve had a good summer so far,” said Derek Ingram, Team Canada’s head coach. “We have a high expectation for the players we’re going to spend time and money on, and it’s been a great year.”
Ingram and everyone involved with Golf Canada helps the players with everything and anything, which includes coordinating schedules to swing technique to off-course workouts.
“The biggest thing probably in the summer is support at tournaments,” said Ingram, who has been involved with the men’s and women’s national teams for about 12 years. “Helping them do all the right things throughout, before and after the tournaments.”
And it doesn’t just stop there. Even the players – who, a reminder, are competing against one another – help each other after rounds with their games or talk strategy about certain holes, Conners said.
It even goes as far as caddieing for one another. Last year, after Rank couldn’t get through a playoff to advance to match play, he grabbed Conners’ bag. Conners advanced to the semifinals, falling to eventual champion Matt Fitzpatrick.
This year, on Wednesday evening when Rank closed out his match against Beck, all three team members plus Ingram were standing behind the 18th green.
“When I walked around the water here, I saw all the guys behind the green,” Rank, 26, said. “It brought a smile to my face and hoped they had won as well.”
Though only two are moving on, it is likely all four teammates will be back Thursday: two to compete and two to support.