Thursday morning on the scenic shores of Trinity Bay, Blair Bursey stepped to the tee box on the first hole at Pitcher’s Pond Golf Course for the first time in his life.
When he turned in his scorecard after twice playing through the nine-hole course, he had shot a 75, good for the day’s low score on Day 1 of the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games competition.
Where Bursey is concerned, it’s not at all surprising to find him leading the way at a golf tournament on a course he’s never seen before. After all, the 15-year-old from Gander is nothing short of a golf phenom in this province.
After winning the Gander Golf Club men’s championship for the first time at just 12-years-old, Bursey decided to commit himself to becoming an even better golfer.
“I really wanted to dedicate myself to the sport and see how good I can get and I’m still in that phase now,” says Bursey, who went on to win the club title at 13 and again last year. “I’ve taken it further and have had plenty of national and international competition, so I feel like it’s moving in the right direction and progressing.”
This summer alone, he has won two stops on the Tely Junior Golf Tour, claimed the provincial junior and juvenile golf titles — the second straight year he’s done so — and finished second at the CN Future Links Atlantic Championships at the Eagles Glenn Golf Club in Cavendish, P.E.I.
On top of that, he also shot his lowest score ever, a 64, at his home course.
“I had it going on the front nine,” says Bursey. “I had two eagles, three birdies and one bogey and nine pars on the back nine.”
Bursey also finished fifth in the provincial men’s amateur championship, which, for him, was, “kind of disappointing.”
“I really wanted to win that this year,” explains Bursey. “I just had a bit of anxiety with the putter.”
Still, his finish earned him a spot at the national men’s amateur championship at the Camelot Golf Club in Cumberland, Ont. earlier this month.
“I didn’t play my best and I didn’t make the cut,” he said. “It was a tough course. But it was a good stepping stone to see where I’m at in my development.”
Bursey is an unapologetic perfectionist on the golf course — “I think that’s a good problem to have and I want to stay that way,” he insists — who often hits the range or putting greens after playing what any casual or competitive golfer would deem a solid round.
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Case in point: after a tournament win last year in which he was forced to two-putt to claim the title, Bursey went back to exact spot where he missed his first putt on the 18th hole.
See BURSEY, page B5
“It’s therapeutic for me,” he explains. “After a tough day, I can go down to the course and chip and putt for a couple of hours and I’m good.
“It’s a lot of hours, but it’s not work. I really love it.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Golf Association executive director Greg Hillier says that attitude towards the game is not something a coach can teach.
“His demeanor, in one sense, is a little bit cocky in that he wants to take on the course, but he doesn’t come across as, ‘I’m everything.’ I hope he keeps that because that character says a lot about an individual.”
As Bursey has grown older, his game has evolved. A six-inch growth spurt two years ago added power and distance to an already technically sound game. Hitting the gym over the winter months has only bolstered his ability off the tee.
And over the last two years, Bursey’s approach to the game has matured.
“For the most part, it’s not the physical side that matters, it’s what’s between the ears,” he said. “Mentally having acceptance over every shot and knowing that it’s only golf has really helped me a lot.
“My goal, in a way, is to be the total package in all aspects of the game.”
Should Bursey continue down his current path, opportunities are bound to come his way. In fact, some universities have already inquired about the golfing wunderkind, including Indiana’s Purdue University.
But for now, Bursey and his parents are waiting see how things pan out over the next two years.
“If I keep playing the way I am, there’s going to be a few offers,” he says.
“I’d like to make sure I make a good decision because it’s not just golf, it’s more about my education.”