It is out of respect that I won’t divulge the name of a person I had a discussion with in the media tent at the 2004 Canadian Open, for she is one of the top television news people in the land, a title that is richly deserved.
She at least was out of her traditional environment when she made a statement that many others more familiar with golf, and any sport for that matter, are quick to make, as well.
I only knew her from the tube when I got into a pleasant discussion with her before the tournament got underway. Curious as to why she was covering a PGA Tour event, she told me she was there to do a story on 15-year-old Darren Wallace of Langley, B.C., and how he could be the next Tiger Woods.
“No, no, no, no, no,” came my response so suddenly that it seemed to catch her by surprise.
As I explained to her, you didn’t compare anybody to Tiger back when he was in his prime, but certainly not a 15-year-old Canadian.
I suspect it was a producer who sent her to the Abbey to do such a thing and, to her credit, she listened to what I had to say and, to my knowledge, never did the story, at least not the way she had originally intended.
Wallace had just won the Canadian Amateur title at such a tender age and seemed destined for greatness, so it was little wonder that a national network seemed eager to gnaw on that bone, but they wanted to turn it into a feast, which it really wasn’t.
Wallace was, no doubt, a promising player, so no disrespect was meant to him either as the topic of discussion in this conversation.
This story came to mind when I read Brad Ziemer’s interesting piece in the Vancouver Sun on Wallace making the decision to step away from the game at the age of 26, adding that he couldn’t figure out why he’d never had the success he and others expected.
“I wish I had a better answer for that one,” he told Ziemer.
“To be honest I just feel it came down to the fact I didn’t play well when I needed to play well. I think maybe it was just the fact that I caved a little bit under the pressure, even though in the moment of it, I really didn’t feel the pressure. I just didn’t execute the shots I needed to when it came down to it,” he said.
If you haven’t read the story yet, click here.
Whatever the future holds for Darren Wallace, stop and think about what he’s accomplished to this point in his golf career. He done what many of us only aspire to, so perspective is needed, even if he didn’t reach the ultimate goal, and perspective is often missing when we’re watching a young player develop.
As Wallace said in the story, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why he didn’t transform from highly-regarded amateur into a professional at the top level of the game.
In each individual case, it can be any one of nagging injuries, mental fatigue, physical fatigue, reaction to pressure and other factors. It can be one major factor or a combination of all of the above, including other factors too numerous to mention.
Success at a young age is promise, but not a guarantee. Sometimes, you reach a point where you step away from the game as Wallace is doing, or grind your way through unexpected tough times that are tough to explain.
Adam Hadwin, for example, tied for fourth at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open at Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club and appeared at one point ready to become the first Canadian since 1954 to claim the national title.
Yet, he has no problem admitting that his first few years on the Web .com Tour were a struggle as he adjusted to life on the road on the new circuit. He’s handling the adjustment to his first year on the PGA Tour much better.
Nick Taylor, the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world, struggled at times as well and he got his first PGA Tour win last fall and is at this week’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
That brings us to another former No. 1 ranked amateur in the world, this time on the women’s side. Brooke Henderson was a runner-up at last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur and low amateur at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, among other outstanding accomplishments, when she decided to turn pro last December.
As it was with Wallace, I thought a cautious approach was best and that she might be better spending another summer as an amateur before turning pro and going to LPGA Q-school. Others even suggested she do a year of college before turning pro.
The decision was made to turn pro and she’s been proving us wrong ever since. She’s likely not even going to need Q-school by earning the equivalent of top 40 on the LPGA money list.
With T5 finishes at two majors so far this season, a successful defence of her PGA Women’s Championship of Canada, a Symetra Tour win and qualifying for this week’s Portland stop on the LPGA schedule has erased any doubt that her first year as a pro would be anything but a success.
Erring on the side of caution is often seen as doubting a player’s capabilities, but it’s anything but that. It’s more a case of spotting the potential and understanding that various factors can affect the extent to which they exploit their native talents.
The Hendersons realized that players today reach their peak at a young age in women’s golf, so they decided to go for it and the result may be one of the most dominant players this country has ever produced.
That decision cannot be disputed, given Brooke’s success this year and the way she can handle pressure, even saying she welcomes it.
Yet, I still maintain it was prudent to be cautious last year and to continue being so going forward into what promises to be a fun ride with a 17-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ont.
Take a look at the players coming behind her and realize that each one is an individual who will have unique challenges and obstacles to get where he or she wants to go.