Dave Smallwood assumes the persona of a proud father when one of his students experiences the sweet taste of success.
“My wife and my kids will tell you, it wells me up. I have a tough time talking about it because I know what it means for these kids to achieve their goals,” said Smallwood, a Canadian Professional Golfers’ Association professional and director of instruction at the Golf Performance Center at Whistle Bear.
“When I have a student that does something that allows him or her to achieve a goal or have a greater enjoyment of the game, it gives me more satisfaction than I had during my time as a club professional … and I used to love doing that.”
Smallwood spent 23 years as a club pro before leaving the Galt Country Club in 2006. He opened the Whistle Bear teaching and practice facility the following year.
“The goal when I developed the Golf Performance Center was to be able to give everybody the tools they need to have to be as good as they want to be. They just have to figure out how good they want to be,” he said. “But that was it … to provide them with the tools they need to succeed.”
Smallwood is delighted with what he’s been able to achieve at the facility on Dickie Settlement Road but he’s especially proud of some of his hardest working students, members of the Whistle Bear Junior Performance Team. Graduates of that team or players that hone their skills at North Dumfries facility are also a source of pride for Smallwood, who was named the 2012 teacher of the year by the Professional Golfers Association of Ontario.
Smallwood and his teaching staff recently said goodbye to 13 players that will continue to play golf at the university or college level, both in Canada and the United States. Five were members of the junior performance team, five were part of the college player program and three were Whistle Bear junior players.
Another feather in the Whistle Bear cap was earned earlier this summer at the Ontario junior boys championship when 12 players — a remarkable number — with ties to the practice facility teed it up at the provincial championship.
There have also been impressive victories, including this summer’s win by Trevor Ranton at the East Aurora International Junior Masters outside Buffalo, N.Y., and Keaton Jones’ two straight wins at the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour’s national championship tournament in Arizona.
The Junior Performance Team has been at the performance center since the beginning, starting with just 12 members during the first year and growing to 18 in 2008.
This year’s squad has 50 members, a number that is just four shy of maximum capacity. Team members travel from as far away as Strathroy and Kincardine to participate, with
the majority coming from Waterloo Region, Guelph and Brantford.
Next year, if all goes according to plan, there will be 54 participants in total, broken into six categories.
•Girls new competitor (six members)
•Girls developing competitor (six members)
•Girls advanced competitor (six members)
•Boys new competitor (12 members)
•Boys developing competitor (12 members)
•Boys advanced competitor (12 members)
The three girls’ teams are coached by Carrie Vaughan, while Mike Skimson, Mark Wilson and Mike Martz coach the boys’ teams.
Theresa McDermott, meanwhile, handles the Future Links programs for the younger players that are new to the game.
Exact dates are still to be determined but would-be participants for next year’s team must submit a resume to Smallwood sometime this fall. They then be interviewed to make sure they’re a good fit.
If accepted, students receive a junior membership at Whistle Bear, practice range privileges at the Golf Performance Centre, coaching from February to October, one-on-one sessions with Dr. Rich Ennis, a sports psychologist, as well as fitness and nutritional instruction from fitness expert Angella Lee.
Plenty of other perks are also included and the results are more than likely to follow.
Additional details on the program, including costs, are available at golfperformancecenter.ca.