Peter Lee,Record staff
Bett Kennedy (left) and Carly Shane will play golf for the Northern New Mexico College Eagles this fall while studying business administration at the college.
Carly Shane and Brett Kennedy have followed different paths to arrive at the same destination.
The Whistle Bear golfers will board a plane together next week to begin the next stage of their lives at Northern New Mexico College, a public school of 3,800 students in the valley city of Española. The good friends have accepted scholarships to study business administration while competing for the Eagles in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Shane graduated from Waterloo Collegiate Institute in June of 2012 and has spent the past year working in a grocery store bakery department and fine-tuning her golf swing. She made her decision to attend Northern New Mexico College in late March, days after visiting the campus that is nestled between the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo mountain ranges.
“I’m looking forward to the whole experience, playing college golf, traveling around and being alone for the first time,” said Shane, 19.
“I’m a little bit nervous so I’m glad that he’s going, too.”
Kennedy, 21, signed on just days after Shane but isn’t the least bit nervous about heading south . . . and with good reason.
The Huron Heights Secondary School graduate is prepared for pretty much anything after spending last year at the New Mexico Military Institute, a highly structured junior college that refers to its students as cadets and places a premium on discipline.
The first 21 days — Recruit at Training (RAT) week — were especially difficult, recalled Kennedy. Cadets were required, among other things, to be awake at 5:45 a.m., march to breakfast, lunch and dinner, and ask permission to visit the bathroom. Electronic devices were not allowed and all cadets had their heads shaved.
“The first three months were the hardest three months of my life but I got through it and I got noticed (by Northern New Mexico College) so it all worked out,” Kennedy recalled.
“And those first three weeks — RAT week — was just 21 days of pushups, running, sit-ups and getting yelled at. You even had to eat breakfast with your chest on the table, looking straight ahead.”
And did he enjoy it?
“I don’t know yet really. I’m still in recovery mode from not being able to do anything,” he said with a smile.
This will be the first official season for the golf program at Northern New Mexico College.
Head coach Tom Valarde got the ball rolling last season by entering a limited number of tournaments, but this will be the first year he has a complete squad of players to choose from. The Eagles compete in the Association of Independent Institutions, a 23-member circuit that includes The University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria.
Valarde has high hopes and even higher praise for his Canadian recruits, saying he expects Kennedy and especially Shane to step right in and make an impact.
“I’m extremely fortunate to have them both coming here and you can capitalize extremely. Brett brings experience and maturity and he’s got a good game and I think I can develop him into a top player here at the NAIA division. I watched him last year and I really liked his demeanour and attitude on the golf course. He wasn’t having a great day but you couldn’t tell by watching him and that’s a good quality,” said Valarde.
“Carly, if she was a horse, she’d be the lead stallion. She is just an absolute dream to have on the team. Her golf game is pretty polished and we’re going to give her the opportunity to compete at a very high level against really good talent but more than that, I think we’re going to give her the opportunity to blossom in a program that is really going to centre around her. I’ve got some other talented female players coming in but she is head and shoulders above the rest.”
Kennedy and Shane first met some 10 years ago while playing the former Kiwi Tour and both went on to play on the Ian Leggatt Tour as well as the Maple Leaf Junior Tour. Kennedy has been coached for years by Dave Smallwood at the Golf Performance Center at Whistle Bear, while Shane has been coached by Smallwood and Carrie Vaughan.