By Dan Plouffe
A few local contenders should be in the mix as the national capital association prepares to host the best high school golfers in the province for Thursday’s single-round OFSAA girls’ golf festival at Loch March Golf and Country Club.
“You flip through those golf magazines and you see some of the best teenage golfers in Ontario, and those names are here tomorrow, so it’s very exciting,” notes Kendra Read, the national capital golf convenor and member of the OFSAA organizing committee. “I’m quite confident we’re going to have a good day and a competitive tournament. The girls have all made their schools proud and they’ve made their parents proud, and hopefully, they’ll do well tomorrow.”
One of the top competitors vying for the title is expected to be Earl of March student Grace Howie, who won the city championship with a 2-under par round.
Read’s first introduction to Howie’s abilities came at the national capital west conference championships when the Grade 11 student was on the 18th hole at Greensmere Golf and Country Club – Howie had reached the green of the long Par 5 in two shots, and then she stepped up and nailed a 40-foot putt for eagle.
IN CHAMPIONSHIP FORM
After what she calls a slow start to her season, Howie’s game rounded into form in time to win the Canadian Junior Golf Association Nike Championship at the end of summer, and after sneaking out of an afternoon class to play a nine-hole practice round at Loch March, Howie was feeling confident heading into tomorrow’s 9:30 a.m. scheduled shotgun start.
“My short game is actually a lot better than I thought it would be,” the Rideau View member notes. “I’m feeling good and I’m really excited to play.”
Howie has made sure to pop over to Loch March for a few rounds recently, and feels the course suits her well since she’s usually pretty straight off the tee and there are several holes that require strategic positioning to set up approach shots.
“I really like this course,” Howie adds. “It’s tough. There are some hard holes, but I think it’s in good shape for the tournament.”
Although she’s accustomed to competing in big-time national and international events during the summer such as the Stephen Ames Cup, Howie notes that OFSAA is a unique event because it allows a rare opportunity to play for Earl of March.
“I’m excited to represent my school. That’s different – you don’t normally get school and golf to come together,” Howie explains, highlighting the great support she receives from friends at EOM, even if they might not know a whole lot about golf. “It’s awesome if you bring a trophy back to your school, whereas if you win another tournament, it’s kind of just all you.”
Although there’s no question what Howie’s desired result would be, she’s not setting out with the goal of winning the OFSAA title since “I can’t control what other people do – I just want to play my best, focus on myself, and make some putts.”
With a star-studded Group 1-A – the top four golfers based on handicap and qualifying scores who will begin on the first hole – it certainly won’t be an easy task to emerge as the best scholastic golfer in the province.
PHENOM HENDERSON IN LEAD GROUP
Brooke Henderson is certainly a favourite to win. The most eye-popping item on the Smiths Falls resident’s resumé is that she qualified through stroke play for the U.S. Women’s Amateur this past summer and even made it out of the first match play round into the final 32 – at age 13.
Howie knows just about all of her competitors well, including her friend from west of Sudbury, Casey MacNeil, who is also part of the foursome that is expected to be at the top of the leaderboard.
“It’s good to see what you’re at compared to other girls,” Howie says of playing in the top group, although she won’t call her counterparts rivals. “You’re friends, and you want to do the best that you can.”
Shelby Madden of Iroquois Falls rounds out the lead group, although with around half the field owning a handicap of 10 or lower, the winner could come from just about anywhere, Read notes.
“It’s golf, so anything can happen,” smiles Read, who praised Loch March and the organizing committee for their work in preparing for OFSAA. “It’s very competitive and it will be very exciting.”
Louis-Riel’s Marlies Klekner-Alt, who teamed up with Howie for match play at the Stephen Ames Cup in Calgary, is the next highest ranked golfer from the national capital association.
Louis-Riel and Earl of March both have a pair of representatives entered in the field thanks to Estée Deschamps and Hailey Joseph, while St. Joseph’s Dawn Turner is also amongst the region’s best, along with Velda Wong, Paxton Mayer, Gabrielle Holden-Lathlin, Rachel Edwards, Chelsea Watson, Sonia Qin, Carly Ann Perron, and Ping Lu.
Check SportsOttawa.com on Thursday and Friday for Twitter updates and full coverage of the OFSAA girls’ golf festival.
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