We might be way up here in the far northwest but it does not seem to hinder the athletic development of local youngsters in following what they like to do and turn it into more than just local success.
For example, Joel Veenstra has been playing golf since he was seven and testing his talents in competition since he was 12.
His dedication to the sport and his devotion to practice has led to numerous honours on the links including provincial championships and remarkable finishes at the national level.
Next he heads out to the University of Idaho, a top level Division 1 school in the US university athletic association. He will be joining his brother Adam there on a full scholarship in its gold program.
“I’m excited to go. I’ll be joining my brother there and I’ll study in business program,” Veenstra said.
Veenstra said that the golf team is ranked in the top 20. “They’re now in a rebuilding phase. There are a lot of good freshmen coming in this year. Last year was a bit of a struggle and they played in a lot of tournaments with the top schools. This year, we are a fairly young team so hopefully we can move up in the rankings.”
Veenstra recently competed in the Junior America’s Cup which was followed by the Juniors Boys Canadian Championship.
“Basically it was a mediocre tournament. It wasn’t what I had hoped for. Maybe I was a little tired. Both of the last two were not my best weeks,” he said.
The zero handicap golfer has won the BC high school tournament twice and placed third this year.
Veenstra feels that playing in a community such as Smithers has been an advantage in his development as a top golfer. “It really helps that it’s a small town and I have easy access to get to the golf course every day. Some days I’m out there 12 hours whereas in the city it’s much more difficult to spend that time on the course,” he said.
Being in the northwest is also an advantage. “We also have a lot of daylight here and its easy to get to the golf course,” he said.
Veenstra feels that the strongest point of game of his game is his driving. “I hit the ball long and straight and also my iron play is really good. I hit a lot of greens and close iron shots,” he said
Like any good athlete, he also is aware of the points of his game that need work. “ If I can get the putter a little more consistent I should be really successful in college, I think. I think my green reading could be better and maybe the way the putts break,” he said.
While he is hard-working at his game, he is looking forward to the college team. “They have coaches there who will be able to help out. There are not a lot of options here.”
Veenstra is also aware of the importance of the mental part of his game. “I think a big strength of mine this year has been my ability to bounce back. I’ve had a couple of bad rounds and I would be able to bounce back or I would have a couple of bad holes and I would be able to bounce back with a couple of birdies. I think being mentally tough has been one of my strengths. It’s something I’ve really improved on. I used to get really frustrated and now being able to keep my emotions in check is something I’ve really improved on and it’s one of my strengths now,” he said.
Veenstra feels that he can go as far as he wants as long as he stays focussed. He’ll be playing against some of the best amateur golfers in the world “If I can keep focused and playing my game, I will see how far it can take me,” he said.
He is looking forward to the experience. This year the main qualifier is in Las Vegas and he is looking forward to the travel this fall. “It will be hard to balance the classes and the golf but I think I’ll be able to do it,” Veenstra added.
With his positive attitude and focus, Veenstra it should not be a big surprise as he continues to improve and to shine as another northern light.