Learn­ing golf, lit­er­ally, on his home course

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT RADLEY

In ret­ro­spect, it’s some­thing of a mir­a­cle that he didn’t turn his child­hood home into a mu­seum of pul­ver­ized ar­ti­facts.

C’mon, you give a golf-crazed child a seven-iron for his birth­day and he’s go­ing to swing it. You give one to a Cana­dian kid that age — who’s stuck in the house for a chunk of the year be­cause it’s ei­ther too cold or too snowy out­side — and he’s go­ing to swing it in­doors. Mean­ing bro­ken windows, smashed lamps, im­paled walls and pos­si­bly even a few gouges in the floor are al­most in­evitable ca­su­al­ties of the ...

“I don’t think I ever broke any­thing,” Char­lie Cor­ner says, de­fy­ing ev­ery­thing we know about young boys and en­closed spa­ces. “I have a clean record.”

If that’s sur­pris­ing — any­one who’s ever had an en­er­getic son will con­firm, it ab­so­lutely is — what came later is even more re­mark­able. The club control he de­vel­oped as a boy helped the Hamil­ton-born Cayuga na­tive lead his Uni­ver­sity of Texas El Paso team to its first con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship in over 30 years and re­cently earn him con­fer­ence player of the week.

So how does a lo­cal kid go from prac­tis­ing his swing at home to play­ing on a schol­ar­ship in the Amer­i­can south?

It turns out the liv­ing room and kitchen weren’t the only places he would work on his form back in his youth. Day af­ter day he’d go to the nearby Cayuga Golf Club and play for hours.

The folks there didn’t seem to mind let­ting a lit­tle kid wan­der the fair­ways and greens work­ing on his game. So he would stay. And stay. And stay some more.

“I got in trou­ble a lot of times for stay­ing too long at the golf course and not mak­ing it home in time for din­ner,” Cor­ner says.

Once he’d bee­lined it home and dusted off his dessert, he’d rush out to the back­yard with that same seven iron to hit tennis balls or any­thing else he could find ly­ing around. Or work on his putting and chip­ping on the pretty de­cent putting green dad had cut into the lawn.

By 13, he was com­pet­ing in, and win­ning, tour­na­ments on the Hur­ri­cane Ju­nior Golf Tour, the Maple Leaf Tour, the In­ter­na­tional Ju­nior Golf Tour and oth­ers. Then as he was head­ing into the mid­point of high school at McKin­non Park in Cale­do­nia, a men­tor, who’d played NCAA golf him­self, men­tioned the idea of a schol­ar­ship. This be­came the goal.

Cor­ner started send­ing re­sumes to Amer­i­can coaches pitch­ing him­self as a guy who could help their teams.

“It was my goal to get some­where down south where the weather was good all year,” he says.

Roughly two dozen letters were sent. About 15 of the re­cip­i­ents got back to him. His choice ul­ti­mately came down to five schools that wanted him to come. Some were south as he’d hoped. Oth­ers were more north but had some­thing to of­fer. He re­mained un­de­cided un­til he was at a tournament in Las Ve­gas and the head coach of UTEP ap­proached him. This school hit all the notes, so he signed on.

Be­tween the coach­ing there and the coach­ing he gets at Hamil­ton Golf and Coun­try Club from Scott Cowx — the same guy who helps PGA Tour player Macken­zie Hughes with his swing — he’s shaved stroke af­ter stroke off his game.

In 11 col­lege tour­na­ments this sea­son, he has four top-10 fin­ishes and has a scor­ing av­er­age of 72.6.

The goal is to go pro once school is done. He be­lieves it’s an en­tirely rea­son­able tar­get based on his pro­gres­sion. That’s still a year or two away, though.

All those more-re­cent suc­cesses aside, it’s hard not to be amazed that a kid who grew up wav­ing a club around all the time didn’t blow some­thing up. Not a sin­gle pane of glass? Not one ceil­ing fan? Noth­ing? At this point he clarifies. He per­son­ally may not have bro­ken any­thing but he’s not go­ing to claim he wasn’t present when some dam­age was in­flicted. He and a neigh­bour were swing­ing their golf clubs one day when the friend put his driver head through a car win­dow. Which didn’t go over well.

Con­nor laughs. “That kind of scared me out of do­ing that at my house.”

sradley@thes­pec.com 905-526-2440 | @radley­atthes­pec Spec­ta­tor colum­nist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show week­nights 7-9 on 900CHML.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Hamil­ton-born Cayuga na­tive Char­lie Cor­ner helped his Uni­ver­sity of Texas El Paso team win the Con­fer­ence USA Tro­phy.

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