Canada for the Olympics
by Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.com
This past year was the best for Canadian professional golfers – and now the men of the PGA TOUR who wear the red-and-white week in and week out are eager to keep their momentum going into 2024.
Especially with both the Olympics on tap plus an opportunity to play for their countryman, Mike Weir, at the Presidents Cup on home soil.
Past Olympians Corey Conners (T13 in Tokyo) and Mackenzie Hughes (50th in Tokyo) both won on the PGA TOUR in 2023, while Adam Svensson and Nick Taylor added to the country’s total of TOUR titles. Four wins by four separate Canadian golfers were the most in history.
Adam Hadwin, who is currently in the second Canadian spot for Paris (Conners is on top), nearly made it five Canadian winners. He had three runner-up results, including a playoff loss at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Not only that, but there were also two Canadian winners on the Korn Ferry Tour, two on PGA TOUR Canada, and one on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica. On the women’s side Brooke Henderson continued her winning ways – notching win No. 13 on the LPGA Tour in January, the most by any Canadian on the LPGA or PGA TOUR in history – while Alena Sharp won the LPGA Tour’s feeder circuit, the Epson Tour, and captured bronze at the Pan American Games. Henderson is a lock to tee it up at her third Olympic Games, while Sharp is in a battle with Maddie Szeryk and Maude-Aimee Leblanc for the second Canadian spot. Szeryk currently is in the qualifying position, but Leblanc is just four spots back in the rankings.
“Canadian golf is certainly on the rise. It's really fun to be a part of it,” Conners said at the Grant Thornton Invitational, where he teamed up with Henderson and finished second.
On the men’s side, things are awfully tight heading into Paris 2024 as the Canadian crew on TOUR is looking to replicate their successes from this year.
Conners is the country’s top-ranked Canadian male at No. 35 in the world and is looking for his second Olympic appearance. Hadwin is up next at No. 49, but Taylor is right there at No. 51. Svensson is No. 58 and Hughes is No. 66.
Taylor knows this may be his only opportunity to make it to the Olympics with the next one coming when he’ll be 40. He’s playing the best golf of his career, highlighted by a dramatic, drought-busting, playoff victory at the RBC Canadian Open in June. He defeated England’s Tommy Fleetwood on the fourth extra hole after nailing a 72-foot eagle – the longest putt in his PGA TOUR career. Taylor had six top-10 finishes this season on TOUR, including a pair of runners-up – one at the WM Phoenix Open, a Designated Event in 2023, and another with Hadwin at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event.
In the next 12 months, getting to Paris is a top priority, along with playing for the International Team at the Presidents Cup. But as far as the past 12 months are concerned? He’s pretty darn happy.
“It’s been a career year for sure,” Taylor said at the Grant Thornton Invitational, where he, along with China’s Ruoning Yin, finished eighth. “I don’t know if it was ‘life-changing’ but it’s definitely put me, hopefully, on a trajectory of bigger and better things. Lots to play for this coming year.
“I look back from a year from now, it’s been a lot of good stuff. If I can keep going what I’m doing, I’ll be very happy.”
At the Grant Thornton, the first co-sanctioned event between the LPGA and PGA TOUR since 1999, there were plenty of country connections besides that all-Canadian squad. Other teams where there was some international flare included Team Sweden’s Ludvig Åberg and Madelene Sagstrom, and Team England’s Charley Hull and Justin Rose.
Conners and Henderson, after a 9-under 63 Sunday, finished just one shot back of the winners: Australia’s Jason Day and two-time Olympic medalist Lydia Ko of New Zealand.
“I was able to play with a lot of freedom knowing I had Brooke to back me up,” Conners said with a smile of his fellow Olympian. “It was so much fun.”
It was not the first time they had played together, but it was the first time in a decade. They teed it up as amateurs in 2013 when they, along with Albin Choi and Augusta James, won the team title at the Copa de las Americas in Florida.
“Brooke is a trailblazer for a lot of young girls in Canada, and there's so many guys out on the PGA TOUR motivating young kids, and golf is really popular in Canada, and it's just a real honor and fun to be a Canadian professional golfer (right now),” Conners said.
While Conners is leading the way for the Canadian men, it’s set to be a tight race to see who fills out Team Canada at the Olympics next summer.
And while that’s something still to be determined, one thing is for sure – Canadians on the PGA TOUR are all eager to both wear the maple leaf in Paris and keep their strong play from 2023 going into 2024.