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Young golfer driving toward a bright future on the greens

Wednesday, 09 August 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Young golfer driving toward a bright future on the greens
Ethan Choi in action last month at the Sun Life Financial Men’s Amateur Championship in Ponoka.   Photos courtesy of Alberta Golf

Young golfer driving toward a bright future on the greens

By Tyler Ryan

Those involved with the Pincher Creek golfing community likely know of Ethan Choi.  

The young prodigy has been golfing since he was a preschooler but some may not know how he got his start.

Ethan’s father, Sheldon, introduced golf to his son at a young age and Ethan says his dad even set up a net in their garage to catch balls and let Ethan practise his swing.  

“I started golfing when I was three years old, just whacking plastic clubs around,” Ethan says.

The golfer adds that he played baseball to improve his hand-eye co-ordination, another idea cooked up by his dad.

Ethan’s golfing pursuits started in Vancouver and at four years old he participated in the Junior Linkster tour at the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt golf course.

This competition is aimed at helping young athletes become familiar with the game, as well as cultivating proper golf etiquette and respect for other players.

“It was a lot of fun,” Ethan says, adding that the Junior Linkster was more about encouraging kids and having a good time as opposed to competition.

But this wasn’t enough for Ethan.

After moving to Pincher Creek when he was seven, he became much more competitive as he got older.

He attended the junior world championships every year between the ages of six to 10 and says the experience of watching other young golfers helped him to hone his skills.

At 12, Ethan became more serious about competing and this meant spending more time practising on the course to reach the levels he wanted to achieve.

Ethan says he also started entering more tournaments and these experiences helped boost his confidence on the green.

Playing in tournaments solidified his craving to reach higher levels in the sport. “I knew I had the skills to win and to compete,” he says.

As Ethan became more experienced, he traded in his starter clubs for a full set of custom-fitted equipment.

Over the last three years, he has participated in over a dozen competitions across North America while building a strong reputation for himself in the sport.

The young golfer attracted considerable attention with his extraordinary 12-under-par score of 59 at the Alberta bantam championships last August, a feat even professional athletes have difficulty achieving.

Since then, Ethan has been selected for the Team Alberta high-performance squad.

He was part of the under-19 Alberta squad last year and found it “awesome to be with the best junior players in Alberta.”

His inclusion with the high-performance team has been helpful by providing financial support as well.  

Ethan has competed in numerous tournaments already this year. He went to Seattle for the Junior America’s Cup from July 23 to 27, a tournament that hosted players from the western parts of Canada, the United States and Mexico.

He placed seventh of 72 golfers who finished.

The Alberta team that Ethan was part of was also in Seattle, placing 11th out of 18.

He took advantage of time away from the green to do some sightseeing and took in a Seattle Mariners baseball game.

Most recently, Ethan golfed in the Canadian junior boys championship in Kingston, Ont., from July 31 to Aug. 3. He tied for fifth place out of 71 players.

Ethan now has his sights set on the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg from Aug. 8 to 11 and he will be part of the team representing Team Alberta.

The Titleist golf equipment company supports Ethan through sponsorship. Although he does not receive money, Ethan says Titleist gives him deals on new equipment and he occasionally has new products sent to him.

He says Titleist “treats [the golfers] really well and I’m really thankful to them.”

Even when Ethan isn’t actively competing, fans looking to catch the young man in his element can probably find him practising at the Pincher Creek Golf Club. When he’s there, he usually practises for two hours.

The secret to Ethan’s success is simple: he puts in the time and effort required to stay on top of his game while blocking out any distractions that could negatively impact his play.

“When I was younger, I would spend a lot of time at the golf course but not really practise as much,” he says.

“That changed in the last year or two,” he adds, and he has become a lot more efficient in his training regimen.  

He also contributes at the golf club, mentoring and helping out with the junior golf program.

“I was just helping out the kids that are trying to learn the game,” Ethan says. “It was awesome to see and there were a bunch of kids out there.”

Ethan adds that he is interested in helping out with the junior golf program again next year.  

Looking forward, Ethan says he hopes to play college golf in the United States when he gets older and he is going to keep working hard to reach that elite level.

What about being seen at the Masters Tournament one day?

“Maybe,” Ethan says with a laugh. “Hopefully one day.”

Ethan has received a lot of encouragement from the people in his life and is very thankful for the support he has received over the years from his family, the folks at the local golf club, his teachers and the community.

2017807 Ethan Choi2 Alberta Mens Amateur Championship Contributed by Alberta Golf

2017807 Ethan Choi1 Alberta Mens Amateur Championship Contributed by Alberta Golf

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From the August 9, 2017 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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