Nick Taylor ready for full-circle moment at Paris Games

Canadian goes from carrying the Olympic torch as a young amateur to walking the fairways as a 2024 Olympian

In 2010 when the Winter Olympics came to Vancouver, Nick Taylor – after ascending to the No.1-ranked amateur in the world – was nominated by someone from his hometown to carry the Olympic torch. He accepted, ran his 200 metres (about 700 feet) and then passed the flame on to the next person.

Taylor’s hometown – Abbotsford, British Columbia – is about 90 minutes from Vancouver. It was a fun moment for the youngster, who had just barely started his golfing life.

Almost a decade and a half later, however, Taylor is an Olympian himself.

He appropriately calls it a “full circle” moment.

“I was a very, very small part of the Winter Olympics in Canada, and now I get to represent Canada in the Summer Olympics – it’s pretty neat,” Taylor said.

Taylor, at No. 35 in the Official World Golf Ranking after the U.S. Open, will be an Olympian for the first time this summer. Corey Conners, at No. 37, earned the second spot for Canada – and did so in as dramatic a way as possible.

Conners finished in a three-way tie for ninth recently at Pinehurst No. 2 and earned just enough (like, just enough) points to bypass Adam Hadwin in the OWGR. When it was all calculated Monday morning, Hadwin ended up No. 38 to Conners’ No. 37.

“I’ve been working really hard to earn a spot on the team,” Conners said. “Certainly, it came down to the wire.

“It’s been highly competitive for the spots we’re fighting for. I’m thrilled to be going there alongside Nick. Looking forward to teeing it up with him and getting a couple of medals for Canada.”

“Everybody was playing great golf and I feel like our depth is so good that it was going to be really difficult to get one of those two spots,” added Taylor, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open and was left waiting on his fate.

Taylor Pendrith came closest to giving Taylor a run for his money, notching his best career result at a major championship with a T16 at the U.S. Open. But Pendrith had an outside shot to also jump into Olympic consideration if he had moved into the top three at Pinehurst, or thereabouts.

“I was fighting to contend in the U.S. Open first and foremost last week,” said Conners, whose T9 was his best result at the U.S. Open after five straight missed cuts. “But it’s definitely a relief to know that the result was good enough (to earn a spot on the Olympic team).”

Emily Phoenix, who is Golf Canada’s high-performance director and the team lead for the Olympics, said the 2024 Summer Games could be much different than Tokyo with how well the Canadian men are playing heading into the summertime.

“Both Nick and Corey are ranked inside the top 40 in the world right now on the OWGR and I think that’s huge,” Phoenix said. “Both have also won tournaments in the past year or so, and I think from a team standpoint, we’re looking really strong.”

Last Olympics, Conners earned a spot alongside Mackenzie Hughes for the Tokyo Games and finished just two shots out of a playoff for a bronze medal. This generation of Canadians on the PGA TOUR have won more frequently than any other in history.

Taylor has been Canada’s highest-ranked male golfer for most of 2024, following his win at the WM Phoenix Open earlier this season.

“It’s been something on the top of my goal list since (golf in the Olympics) came back and, really, since Tokyo,” Taylor said of making the Olympic team. “To really have a nice year and a half, two years of steady play and some really nice results put me in a good position. The competitive nature in me was vying for one of those two spots.

“From Adam Svensson to (Mackenzie Hughes) to Pendrith to Hadwin and Corey and I – it was neck and neck for the last two spots.”

Although this will be Conners’ second Olympics appearance, it will be his first under “normal” circumstances as the Tokyo Games featured strict policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, both Conners and Taylor – as a first-time Olympian – are looking forward to the unique opportunity the week will afford.

“Last time, we were rather restricted on what we could do, so getting able to experience things in the village and watch some other sports and interact with other athletes I missed out on before – that was a big motivator for me, to get the full Olympic experience this time around,” Conners said.

Taylor said his plan is to be there for Opening Ceremony, experience the athlete’s village and hopefully see some other events before his golfing week begins and he gets into competition mode.

“I’d love to experience it all because it’ll be an experience unlike any other,” Taylor, 36, said. “For me, currently at least, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”