Cougars’ Kniel tees off on competition
Anyone who has attempted to play the game of golf has realized it can be extremely frustrating.
For many, memories of tossing a driver into the trees after hitting an errant tee shot into the drink seem to far outnumber that rare par save or scorecard that totaled less than 100.
For Cougars golfer Kolby Kniel, however, the name of the game is mental toughness. His long resume of success — which includes an eighth place finish recently at the 2009 Canadian University/College Championship — has earned him the position of leader on Mount Royal’s golf team.
“I credit a lot of my success to my mental game to tell you the truth,” Kniel says. “I don’t really have a picturesque swing or anything like the teachers would say you should have but I put the ball in the hole and don’t get too high or too low and that helps me out a lot.”
Although his eighth-place finish in Hamilton, Ont. last month at the RCGA came against the top-ranked university and college golfers in the world, Kniel explains that he tries to approach every round of golf the same.
“Whether it’s playing with a group of friends or playing on Sunday of the national championship. I try to keep on an even keel and treat everything the same,” he said.
Despite his calm and collective nature, Kniel does put high expectations on his performance. He came into the RCGA seeking a top 10 finish and after posting a slightly off-pace 77 in his first round, Kniel bounced back shooting 72 and 73 to finish six-over-par, nine shots back of winner Cory Renfrew from University of British Columbia.
“Now I know I can play with some of the best golfers in the country and I am looking forward to next year and hopefully completing my goal of making university Team Canada and following in the footsteps of (Mount Royal’s) Kim Valleau,” Kniel said.
Valleau, who now works as the Cougars golf team assistant coach, earned her way onto Team Canada a few years ago by placing third at the RCGA and ventured with the team to the World University Golf Championships in Torino, Italy. Now she and head coach Brock Balog are working tirelessly to help Kniel pursue his dreams.
“I was pleased with his eighth place finish,” Valleau said. “His previous tournament experience and calm attitude is paying off for him on the course, and I know that in the future his eighth place finish can only improve.”
Even more pleasing to Valleau was Kniel’s third-place finish at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association nationals in Charlottetown, PEI in the fall, where he ended just one stroke shy of a playoff for the title. It was his leadership on and off the course this past season that helped coaching staff steer a “rebirth” of the Cougars golf team that Balog described as his intention in an interview with The Reflector in October. Sadly at the RCGA, the Cougars finished second last out of the 20 teams, 92 strokes off the championship score set by UBC.
How the Cougars fared at the RCGA
8. Kolby Kniel, Mount Royal College, 77-72-73-222 +6
79. Gerry MacDonald, Mount Royal College, 85-79-81-245 +29
86. Nathan Schurr, Mount Royal College, 84-82-81-247 +31
99. Wallace O’Neil, Mount Royal College, 87-89-82-258 +42
101. Brandt Goemans, Mount Royal College, 89-83-87-259 +43
“I think the guys placed second last this year at RCGA’s due to lack of experience,” Valleau said. “Playing at a national level is a lot different than playing in ACAC provincials and it can definitely be intimidating.”
Kniel had nothing but praise for Valleau and Balog, both of whom were in their first full year coaching the team.
They have taken this program and turned it 180 (degrees) and we’re now heading in a direction that all of us want to be in and that is to win,” he said.
Kniel, who first picked up a club at 13, has two years of eligibility at Mount Royal while he finishes studying in the college’s accounting program.
“I think the coming season is shaping up great,” he said. “We are looking at some solid recruits and with trips planned to the RCGA in New Brunswick and CCAA in Victoria (B.C.) I think we are going to be a school to watch for.”
And as for his future in this oft-challenging sport, Kniel likes to look at things much like he plays the game: calmly and realistically.
“If you look at guys who are really, really good and can’t even break the PGA Tour it puts things in perspective. I think I will always have a place in the industry,” he said.
As he already holds a job working for Calaway Golf as a southern Alberta representative, it indeed may be along time before Kolby Kniel is done with the game of golf.