By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
At the height of his playing days, Marc Blais would hit 1,000 golf balls a day. That was when the graduate of Fort Myers’ Edison College (now Florida Southwestern) was playing on a pro tour in the sunshine state, seeking to emulate Greg Norman and Ben Hogan.
“I’m feeling it in my body today,” smiles the 50-year-old golf program director at Louis-Riel high school. “It’s a tough grind to try to make a living as a playing pro, but I did get great experience, which now I get to pass on to these guys.”
A realtor for the past 15+ years, Blais is a veteran of the golf industry and well-known on the local links scene.
“I did every job in golf – GM, head pro, playing pro, teaching pro – but I really fell in love with teaching,” underlines the coach of 25 years who recently gave up his CPGA card so he could play amateur with his son.
“It’s a real passion for me to work with kids at all ages,” he adds. “It goes back to the very first lesson I ever gave – I was still a junior – and it’s seeing the smile on somebody’s face when they succeed.”
The head of Louis-Riel’s golf program since 2016, Blais maintains close friendships with his past colleagues. That’s opened the door for his students to play and practice at ClubLink’s GreyHawk and Eagle Creek courses, plus Pine View Golf Course.
In spring and fall, Louis-Riel’s unique sports-study program allows the golfers to get on course 3 times a week during school hours, including one 18-hole round alongside Blais.
“That’s a good way to improve,” signals the Kapuskasing, Ont. native. “If I was at 14 or 15 years old and I got to play with a golf pro every week, I think my game would have got pretty good pretty quick.”
During winter, the Louis-Riel golf program utilizes the largest sports dome in Canada (on-site at school) to perfect fundamentals. Mental performance, tournament preparation, season planning, nutrition and physical fitness (under the guidance of the school’s own strength coach) are also part of the package.
It’s a formula that’s produced numerous varsity golf and scholarship opportunities in Canada and the U.S.; most recently, 2019 grad Jocelyn Ménard joined the Maryville University Saints in St. Louis.
“There are a lot of our kids who will go on to college golf scholarships, which we’re certainly very proud of,” Blais indicates. “But that’s not the goal for everyone. Some of them are going to become businesspeople or doctors, lawyers, plumbers or electricians – they’re going to be great citizens of this world.
“And they’re also going to be great golfers, and have lots of lifelong friends. I really hope they play forever.”