Vancouver Sun - - SPORTS - CAM TUCKER

The term “re­build” has be­come a pop­u­lar buzz­word in sports. There are a cou­ple of vari­a­tions, like “re­build on the fly” or “tran­si­tional phase.”

In a way, you can ap­ply this to the UBC golf pro­gram these days, thanks to an in­flux of first-year stu­dent-ath­letes on both the men’s and women’s teams.

That isn’t to sug­gest the term car­ries a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion.

In fact, for the UBC Thun­der­birds, it’s quite the op­po­site be­cause it means not only have both teams re­cently tasted suc­cess, win­ning three of four ti­tles avail­able at the Cana­dian Univer­sity/Col­lege Golf Cham­pi­onships in June, but that head coach Chris Mac­Don­ald is once again ac­tive in the re­cruit­ment process needed to keep the pro­gram stocked with tal­ented play­ers.

If all goes ac­cord­ing to plan, those new­com­ers will de­velop into far more com­pet­i­tive play­ers at the col­le­giate level.

“We’ve had some re­ally good suc­cess, but as you know in the col­lege level, peo­ple grad­u­ate,” said Mac­Don­ald. “Those peo­ple have grad­u­ated and now it’s time to tran­si­tion into what’s next. Who are our next stand­out play­ers?”

In June, the Thun­der­birds got cham­pi­onship-win­ning per­for­mances from Evan Holmes and Kat Kennedy in the men’s and women’s in­di­vid­ual cat­e­gories and a win in the women’s team event.

Holmes has since moved on from the pro­gram, which does not have a se­nior stu­dent-ath­lete on the men’s side for the 2017-18 sea­son, while Kennedy will as­sist in a men­tor­ing role for the younger play­ers on the women’s team this sea­son.

“She’s been through the whole process for four years now, so it’s in­valu­able to have that kind of feed­back,” said Mac­Don­ald.

“She’s go­ing to work with those fresh­men and get them up to speed — just get them fa­mil­iar with the events and give them some tips on the cour­ses we play. She’ll be com­ing to the gym with us and she’ll be in­volved in all our so­cial func­tions.”

With the golf pro­gram gain­ing fi­nan­cial trac­tion fol­low­ing the school’s sport re­view a few years ago, Mac­Don­ald has in­creased his re­cruit­ment ef­forts, trav­el­ling around to five dif­fer­ent tour­na­ments this sum­mer.

The men’s team now has eight first-year play­ers listed on its ros­ter and four first-year play­ers listed on the women’s team right now.

Mac­Don­ald said he trav­elled to Que­bec and at­tended the Cana­dian ju­nior boys’ and girls’ cham­pi­onships, as well as the B.C. ju­nior boys and girls cham­pi­onships to scout play­ers.

Among the re­cruits this sum­mer was Van­cou­ver’s Christian Zalli, who won the 2017 B.C. Ju­nior Boys Cham­pi­onship in Squamish.

Al­ready slated to at­tend UBC in the fall, Zalli seemed adamant at the time of his pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship in July that he would fo­cus solely on be­ing a stu­dent and forgo the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ath­lete tag that came with play­ing for the golf team. He has re­versed that de­ci­sion.

Lo­gan Carver, now in his sec­ond year with the UBC team, and Zalli were paired to­gether for the fi­nal round at the na­tional ju­nior cham­pi­onship in Kingston, Ont.

A week be­fore the start of school, Zalli reached out to Mac­Don­ald, said the coach.

“I think he just felt more com­fort­able that he could do both,” he said. “He’s been a re­ally steady golfer for a long time.

“I guess he prob­a­bly wanted to know more about the sit­u­a­tion, meet the coach and when he looked at his sched­ule, he might’ve felt like he had a bit of a win­dow to play. Just ex­cited that he came around to the thought it could be a good sit­u­a­tion for him.”

The UBC men’s team has al­ready started its 2017-18 sea­son, plac­ing 10th out of 11 teams in the Itani Qual­ity Homes Col­le­giate event (Mon­day and Tues­day) hosted by Wash­ing­ton State Univer­sity.

The women’s team be­gins its sea­son with the Wash­ing­ton State Cougar Cup Sept. 19 and 20.

Given the youth and in­ex­pe­ri­ence of a num­ber of play­ers on both teams, Mac­Don­ald be­lieves the tal­ent is there, but it might be a work in progress for the first few months be­fore the re­sults re­flect that.

La­bel it how­ever you want, it’s par for the course for just about ev­ery team in ev­ery sport at some point.

“They’re go­ing to get their op­por­tu­nity,” said Mac­Don­ald. “Right now, we’re def­i­nitely in tran­si­tion try­ing to get a look at a lot of dif­fer­ent play­ers.

“It’s a pretty awe­some time right now. But at the same time, the win­ning and learn­ing to play the way we want to play — it’s go­ing to take a lit­tle while. I do feel that hope­fully by the time we tran­si­tion into the end of March, April, May, we’re go­ing to be a pretty good-look­ing team.”


Coach Chris Mac­Don­ald will have plenty of young tal­ent to work with this sea­son.


B.C. ju­nior boys’ cham­pion Christian Zalli head­lines the group of golf fresh­men tee­ing it up at UBC this fall.

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