Golf Canada has announced the six golfers selected to the 2015 Team Canada Young Pro Squad for the program’s second year of operation.
Comprising the team for 2015 are Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., Toronto’s Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Sue Kim of Langley, B.C., Toronto’s Albin Choi, Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont. and Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont.
With support from founding partner Canadian Pacific, Citi Canada and the Golf Canada Foundation Women’s Fund, the Young Pro Squad program was developed to bridge the gap for top graduating amateurs transitioning into professional golf.
“We are very proud of the Team Canada Young Pro Squad initiative,” said Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons.
“We’re well ahead of where we were just a couple years ago in terms of helping to make the transition from elite amateur to the professional ranks as seamless and successful as possible,” added Simmons.
Henderson, 17, declared herself as a professional golfer in December after making history by becoming the first Canadian to hold the No. 1 spot on the Women’s World Amateur Ranking.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey the past few years and now I’m excited for what lies ahead as a professional,” said Henderson. “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the national team program during my amateur career and now I’m proud to continue representing Team Canada as a pro.”
Joining Henderson are two returning members, Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Sue Kim. Both are also graduates of the national amateur team and maintain conditional status on the LPGA Tour for the 2015 season.
“I’m grateful to be back with a program that is undoubtedly working and continues to be dedicated to developing players,” said Lee-Bentham. “Golf Canada has been with me for most of my golfing career and I am honoured to represent Canada each week on the LPGA Tour.”
Kim, 23, finished as 120th on the LPGA Tour’s Race to the CME Globe to earn conditional status for 2015. Her best finish, a tie for 35th, came at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic.
“The ongoing support from Golf Canada is a huge boost for me and my goals to improve my game and results on Tour,” added Kim. “I’m thankful to head coach Tristan (Mullally) and the rest of the support staff and really excited for what the future holds.”
Hughes and Choi return as members of the Young Pro men’s team. They will be joined by Pendrith, who turned pro recently. All three will attend PGA Tout Canada qualifying school in April with hopes of earning full status.
Hughes, 24, is a two-time former Canadian Amateur champion. This year, he hopes to repeat his success of 2013, when he captured the No. 1 spot on PGA Tout Canada’s Order of Merit.
“I’m thrilled to be back on the Young Pro squad and getting the support from those who share a passion for helping me become better,” said Hughes. “The program is a huge deal. It’s helped me to focus on my goal of being successful at the highest level.”
Choi, 22, is also a former Canadian Amateur champion. His 2014 season on the Web .com Tour was highlighted by four top-30 finishes and a tie for 19th at the United Leasing Championship.
“Being with the Team Canada program for seven years now, it almost feels like a family,” said Choi.
“Derek (Ingram), the coaching staff, and the other members of the squad are all so supportive of each other. Having that backing is a huge lift for the many challenges of competing professionally,” he said.
Pendrith, 23, will look to hit the ground running after a successful amateur career that included winning the prestigious Monroe Invitational in 2014, as well as earning the Gary Cowan trophy (low amateur honours) at the 2014 RBC Canadian Open.
“This is a big honour for me,” said Pendrith.
“I have high goals and aspirations for my career and I couldn’t think of a better team to support me in my journey. The national team program has done a lot for my amateur career and I’m excited to transition that success over to the professional ranks.”
Men’s coach Derek Ingram and women’s coach Tristan Mullally will provide coaching to their respective Young Pro players.
In addition to funding as part of the program, the athletes will have access to Team Canada’s sport science staff which includes psychologist Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, nutritionist Nicole Springle and physiotherapist and strength coach Greg Redman.