Falcons Serious About Golf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reed On The Greens March 20, 2019
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com

No longer second banana in a city coloured Mustangs purple, the Fanshawe Falcons athletic department has enjoyed a record winning season on provincial and national stages during the 2018-19 school year. The Falcons golf squads have not only played a big part in that success, but also they’re soaring to unprecedented heights.

And they’ve accomplished incredible feats while facing adversity on and off the golf course.

On the heels of hosting the 2018 Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) golf championship last October at FireRock Golf Club in Komoka, the Falcons will host this year’s Canadian University/College golf championship at FireRock from May 27-31.

Falcons coach Colin Robertson with All-Canadians Braydon White and Alyssa Stoddart. Photo: CCAA.

The Falcons will do so with a program so strong, it’s drawing interest from student athletes across Canada and Europe. No doubt, the college’s global presence is teeing up international interest. But you can’t sell short the Colin Robertson-coached Falcons men’s and women’s squads when explaining the program’s new-found star status.

In mid-October 2018, Robertson, 33, was named Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) golf coach of the year, prior to his Falcons men’s squad finishing fifth and women’s team sixth at the CCAA golf championships at Desert Blume Golf Club in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Weeks earlier, it was all Fanshawe at FireRock, where Braydon White of Barrie and Alyssa Stoddart of Orangeville won OCAA gold in men’s and women’s competition, while Fanshawe women won team gold – a school first – and the men silver.

White, a graduate of Fanshawe’s highly-respected Golf and Club Management program, fired consistent rounds of 70-71-72 (E) to finish with a six-shot victory and earn Fanshawe’s first individual gold in 43 years at the OCAA championships. Alex Bober accomplished the feat in 1975.

Both White and Stoddart led wire-to-wire at FireRock. Stoddart’s first-place score of 82-80-84 (+27) gave her a six-stroke victory and Fanshawe’s first-ever women’s individual gold medal at the OCAAs. Stoddart and White were both named CCAA All-Canadians, while Robertson was named OCAA Coach of the Year.

“(Fanshawe’s manager of athletics) Nathan (McFadden) has done a fantastic job doing what he wanted to do, and that is really putting Fanshawe athletics on the map,” Robertson said. “Golf was something that, for a lot of years, was not showcased as well as it could have been.

“But we hosted the OCAA championship, and now the best university and college varsity golfers will be right in our backyard competing, and we’re excited to be the host college for this national event. Our success and our hosting shows just how far we’ve come,” Robertson added.

Stoddart The Real Deal

At the college level, golf is a team sport. But you can’t ignore the presence of Stoddart who almost singlehandedly has given new life to the women’s golf program at Fanshawe. Her bronze medal at the CCAAs was Fanshawe’s first national golf medal.

Putting a 20-year-old college athlete on a pedestal can ruin that athlete’s career, even before it’s given a chance to blossom. Not every young athlete can handle the pressure put upon them by an entire post-secondary school institution. But it appears Stoddart is the exception – so much so that Robertson said he’s now building a stronger women’s golf program entirely around her.

Alyssa Stoddart. Photo: Jeffrey Reed/LondonOntarioGolf.com.

In fact, Stoddart said she “welcomes the opportunity to be an ambassador” for the college.

The CCAA has a mandate to grow women’s golf. At the OCAAs, only eight women competed, including Stoddart’s only teammate, Mery Tarigan.

“Growing women’s golf is something we’re trying to do right across the OCAA,” Robertson explained. “At Fanshawe, this is something we absolutely need to do, and now Alyssa is a huge part of that. To have her talk about the team to prospective members, and to show her results, is very important. And moving forward, she’ll be a big player when it comes to attracting more of the women’s game to our college.”

This season, Stoddart, a first-year Golf and Club Management program student, earned individual first-place finishes at the Fanshawe, Lakehead and Georgian invitationals before capturing OCAA gold and national bronze. She was also the top OCAA golf at the Niagara invitational which included Brock University.

Stoddart said her goal “is to help build our program. I see how strong the men’s program is and I want that for the women. I accept that role and that challenge and I’m thankful Colin has put his faith in me.”

Robertson is thankful to have Stoddart as the star attraction of Fanshawe’s women’s golf program. She started golfing at age 5 at Shelburne Golf and Country Club and was coached by PGA of Canada hall of fame instructor Sam Young.

After 10 years of junior golf, numerous GAO and Golf Canada tournaments including a third-place finish at the Ontario bantam championship and a stint with the now-defunct Ontario junior development program at Whistle Bear Golf Club in Cambridge, Stoddart gave up the game.

“I was in Grade 11 and had been playing competitive golf for a decade, so I needed a break,” she said. “But I could always find playing partners. I grew up playing golf with the boys. I was never intimidated, and it made me a better golfer. We even had long-drive contests which were fun.”

Alyssa Stoddart. Photo: OCAA.

Stoddart’s prowess of the tee and deft short game, as well as her leadership skills, have helped her give new life to the Falcons’ women’s squad. It’s that three-part persona which earned her a partial scholarship with McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She was redshirted during her freshman year, and not long afterwards left the U.S. when she decided the American lifestyle wasn’t for her.

“It hasn’t surprised me one bit,” said Robertson of Stoddart’s success as a Falcons rookie. “She has a great head on her shoulders. She’s very cognizant of every shot that she takes. She’s dedicated and focused. Her confidence is something that the rest of the team feeds off of. Her smile is infectious. And she’s a very important part of our team.”

“Colin is an unbelievable coach,” Stoddart said. “He’s good with my game, doesn’t do too much to my swing. He just gets me out of my own head.”

Stoddart will be a part of the Falcons program next season, and perhaps for a third, before she sets out to launch her own golf academy. She wants to coach golfers of all levels, in particular girls who need a role model. And already her success can be held high for others to see, according to Robertson.

“I’m continually getting emails from around the country and even from around the world. Fanshawe has a global presence now with (academic) programs it’s offering. Our athletics are being recognized as well. I’ve had recruitment from at least a half dozen girls across Canada, plus a girl from Holland and a girl from Spain. We’re always keeping an ear to the ground and keeping our eyes open,” he said.

Life Presents Challenges

Mery Terigan. Photo: Fanshawe Athletics.

Tarigan, 26, has an amazing story to tell, too. At age 19, the four-foot-five golfer from Indonesia turned down an academic scholarship in order to work after school every day with four siblings on a vegetable farm, in order to help pay for her brother to attend school. She later caddied in Malaysia, sent her $6 daily pay back home to her family, and fell in love with golf.

While caddying, Tarigan met Londoners Paul and Janet Tufts who were working in Malaysia. With their help, she moved to London, studied in Fanshawe’s English Language Studies program and now is a varsity golfer studying in the same program as her teammate Stoddart.

Tarigan’s next goal is to raise $35,000 to help build a school in her village of Kabanjahe. In 2010, a deadly volcano erupted outside of the village, changing lives forever. She has created a GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/merycristyna.

Robertson said he “feels fortunate to have Mery as part of our team. She is a very smart athlete and an even better person, whose story reminds us to appreciate what we have.”

Life has handed Robertson some ups and downs as of late. Living with Crohn’s disease, he recently underwent Gastrojejunostomy and Ileocolic resection surgeries, and said now he has “a whole new lease on life. I went from not being able to eat anything to eating normally in a matter of a month.”

On March 2, Robertson, his wife, Erica, and son Camden, 2, welcomed a new edition to the family: daughter Emmie Paulina.

Colin Robertson

Robertson, who teaches in the Golf and Club Management program at Fanshawe, has created the Robertson Golf Academy with the goal of helping his student athletes improve their game and reach their personal goals. Fanshawe has recently added a golf simulator at its downtown London campus, and will soon add another on main campus.

Said Robertson, “This will give our students the tools they need to become the best student athletes they can be.”

It’s clear that Fanshawe College – and its golf team – are serious about the game.

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Jeffrey Reed has been a member of the London sports media since 1980. His column, Reed On The Greens, is the only two-time winner of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada’s writing award for Best Website Feature Column. Reach Jeffrey at jeff@londonontariogolf.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989.

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