Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: Freshmen Smith and Carswell flourishing at SFU; Bald Eagle in Point Roberts to re-open next spring; Several British Columbians on 2024 national amateur and NextGen teams; Zhang top-10s in Texas

SFU Red Leaf Stalwart Freshmen Golfers Dana Smith (L) & Denby Carswell (R) - BC Golf Photos

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Recruiting can be a hit-or-miss game for collegiate golf coaches, who are always on the lookout for promising juniors who can help replenish their teams.

Those new recruits often need time to develop before they are ready to play regularly and make an impact with their college squads. That is why Simon Fraser University coach Matthew Steinbach feels blessed after seeing how two of his freshmen have performed this season.

Dana Smith of Campbell River and Denby Carswell of Burnaby have led the women’s and men’s teams this fall.

“It’s rare that you are going to have two freshmen make this big of an impact,” Steinbach said in an interview.

After each sitting out the first event of the fall season, Smith and Carswell have topped their team in scoring in the final three events of the season. Smith tied for third in her collegiate debut at the Western Washington University Women’s Invitational in Bellingham.

“I wasn’t expecting to place in the top three in my very first event,” Smith said in an interview. “It was a little bit of a shock to me. I was just kind of in the zone. It felt different than anything I had ever experienced in junior golf.”

She followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the Hawaii Pacific Sharks Shootout and a tie for 11th in the Dennis Rose Invitational, also in Hawaii. To help calm her nerves, Smith has tried to focus on how thankful she is to have the opportunity to play for SFU.

“I just kept telling myself I have a chance to play in the NCAA and that is something I should be grateful for and not be too worried about,” Smith said. “I think that helped me calm the nerves down and shoot the scores that I did.”

Carswell is a red-shirt freshman. He had the benefit of practising with the team last year, but did not play in any events. He has led the team in the last three tournaments, including a ninth-place finish at the recent Otter Invitational in Seaside, Calif.

BC Golf File Photo

SFU Red Leaf Golf Coach Matthew Steinbach

“Obviously, it’s a pleasure to see your name up there, but I mean I couldn’t be prouder of the team, we got two wins to start the season and we’re just trying to build up that momentum for the spring,” Carswell said. “There’s a lot of big tournaments coming up. It’s nice to lead the team, but I know everyone is capable of leading the team at one point. It’s kind of clicked for me right now and I am going to see how long that lasts.”

Both Smith and Carswell have loved being part of a team. Junior golf is more of a solitary experience and both have appreciated the support they have received from their teammates. “I think honestly it puts a different dynamic on the game,” Smith said.

“You are not really playing for yourself, you are playing for a team and that does add some pressure because you want to make sure you play well for the team. But if I don’t play my best golf they are there to support me and understand. They won’t drag me down because of it.”

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Carswell said. “Playing 36 (holes) in a day is new. But it has been great. I have met a lot of great people playing and travelling with the team is awesome. Everyone on the team is so supportive. You’re building a real connection with your teammates when you are travelling and it’s been a pleasure to be on the travelling team for most of the fall.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams have completed their fall schedules and will resume competition in the new year.

TEAM CANADA: There is plenty of British Columbia content on Golf Canada’s 2024 national amateur and NextGen teams that were announced last week. The women’s amateur squad includes Angela Arora of Surrey, Lauren Kim of Surrey, Leah John of Vancouver and Michelle Liu of Vancouver. The NextGen boys team includes Alex Zhang of Richmond, Cooper Humphreys of Vernon and James Lee of Whistler. Burnaby’s Luna Lu, Vanessa Zhang of Vancouver, Yeji Kwon of Port Coquitlam and Anna Huang, a former Vancouver resident who now lives in California, are members of the NextGen girls team.

TOP 10 FOR ZHANG: Vancouver’s Vanessa Zhang tied for 10th at the American Junior Golf Association’s Tournament of Champions in San Antonio, Tex. Langley’s Amy Lee finished 15th, while Michelle Liu of Vancouver tied for 16th. Former Vancouver resident Anna Huang was fourth.

BACK IN BUSINESS: Some good news from south of the border. Bald Eagle Golf Club in Point Roberts has re-hired its maintenance team and hopes to re-open the course sometime next spring. Bald Eagle has been closed since November of 2022 as its present owner, Coco Luo, tried to sell the property. Luo is still the owner, but Tracy Evans, a Point Roberts realtor who has been serving as general manager of the club, hinted that Luo has taken on a partner. “It is going through a little bit of a restructure,” Evans said. “I can’t give all of the details at this point. But there is definitely interest from an outside party that has invested into it.” Evans said next May has been targeted as a re-opening date. “It is kind of a soft target right now, but that is the intent,” she said.

BACK TO SCHOOL: This is a big week for three British Columbia pros who are competing in the second stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying school. Vancouver’s Stuart Macdonald and Jared du Toit of Kimberley are competing at a site in Valencia, Calif, while A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam is playing at a site in Valdosta, Ga. All three are hoping to advance to the final stage of Q-school, which goes Dec. 14-17 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.