he Manitoba Golf Association, now Golf Manitoba, can take a lot of credit for making me the golfer I am today.
When I was a kid there were always club events that I could enter, but the Manitoba junior championship was the biggest event for me. It was my major.
I remember playing at my home course, St. Charles, when I was 12 years old. That year was the year Rob McMillan won his first of four consecutive Manitoba Junior titles and that was the year I won the 12-and- under title.
The first round was played at John Blumberg Golf Course. It rained so hard I should have been collecting two of each animal. I didn’t have any rain gear and I never took relief from casual water because I didn’t know the rules. I was 12 years old in every sense. I just wanted to play. Everyone knows Bobby Jones quote that “there’s golf, and then there’s competitive golf.”
My first Manitoba Junior is where I found out that I wanted to play more competitive golf. Years later, in 1997, when I won “The Junior,” as we called it, it gave me so much confidence in myself. It also gave me confidence in my preparation, my ability to set goals properly and it taught me to work hard and prioritize my life in order to reach those goals.
As I have said before, I learned a lot of these attributes from my mom and dad, but I was also taught these lessons by the training camps put on by the MGA. In my younger years, I was part of the pre-elite camp. We received basic golf instruction and learned the rules from local head pros. We weren’t good enough yet to receive any advanced training, but the MGA provided us with this opportunity. I formed relationships with local pros who have mentored me through various stages of my golf life.
The elite camp took teachings to the next level and also incorporated goal setting and mental techniques that are very valuable. I still visualize hitting every green in regulation and making 18 birdies before every round. My warm-up routine contains a drill that I learned when I was 13!
The Manitoba Junior will be played from Monday to Thursday next week at the Meadows. This is secretly disguised as a golf tournament, but what it really is for a lot of young golfers is training for life. I promise you, the winner next week will have worked up to this stage for years. He will have set goals for the last three years, all in preparation for one final putt on Thursday. He will have practised in the shade, in shorts, on a cloudy day in early July just to test his focus… I’m talking mosquitoes! He will have failed before. He will have worked harder than the player who finishes second. He may have even sacrificed a really hot date just to go and practise on Friday night.
All of these things will be quickly forgotten or remembered when the trophy is hoisted. Blood, sweat and tears.
It’s not all about the winner. As I’ve gone through my young career I realized that I took all of my junior events so seriously, maybe too seriously. I’m sure many people can say that about their careers and passions. I look back now and think it shouldn’t have meant that much, but at the time it did. When you have a goal and proper focus, no matter what it is, it should mean the world to you. These kids aren’t just playing golf — they are chasing and living dreams. They’re are having fun and working hard to reach their goals.
So, for the young golfers teeing it up in the Manitoba Junior next week, the work is done. Enjoy the week. Have fun. Reach your goals. Know that all of your preparations are serving you well, even if you don’t play well. To the champion… congratulations… you know who you are already.
Adam Speirs is the winner of the Canadian Tour’s 2008 Greater Vancouver Charity Classic. He first joined the tour in 2002 and is a two-time Manitoba Amateur champ (1999 and 2001). He has also qualified to play in two U.S. Opens (2002 and 2007).