A period of adjustment

Kenn Oliver
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Gander’s Blair Bursey making changes to his game

The Telegram—Sherbrooke, Que. — Much like in his first two rounds in the boys’ golf competition at this week’s Canada Summer Games, Team Newfoundland and Labrador’s Blair Bursey has had an up-and-down season on the course.

“I’ve made some changes that I haven’t quite adapted to yet,” says Bursey. “But I feel like I’m getting close.” In the provincial men’s in early July, he took a seven-shot lead into the final round, but faltered on the final day and ended up finishing third behind champion Michael Tibbo and his brother, Matthew.

“It stung, I’m not gonna lie. But it was still a good experience to draw on,” says Bursey, whose maturity belies his 16 years. “You can’t win them all.”

His result was enough to qualify him for the senior national amateurs, but the province didn’t send anyone to this year’s tournament at the Royal Colwood Golf Club in Victoria. “(Golf Newfoundland and Labrador) wasn’t financially able to send any of their athletes, so no males went to the Canadian amateur this year. “It was extremely disappointing.”

The gifted product of Gander went on to win his third straight provincial junior golf championship not long after, but at the CN Future Links Atlantic Championships the very next weekend, he came up well short of his own expectations.

“I finished second there last year, and I was really hoping to win. I think I had too many expectations going into it,” says Bursey, who expects to have a better showing at next year’s event, being held at Humber Valley resort on the province’s west coast.

Things didn’t get any better two weeks later at the national junior championships at the Timberwolf Golf Course in Garson, Ont. While he was the only Newfoundland golfer to make the cut — his Games teammates Ryan Burton and Nathan Peters did not — he doesn’t feel as though he played to his potential, finishing tied for 70th.

“I had a really good first day, a nice comfortable pairing. The second day I played pretty bad; I had to run the last 13 holes due to slow play from the guy I was playing with,” he explains.

“But no excuses, I didn’t play well over the weekend. That hurt, as well, because that was my big goal for this year.”

Golf NL’s chief instructor Jim Stick says Bursey is doing the right thing by playing just enough competitive golf this year.

“I think everybody, and Blair as well, know that you can’t play competitive golf all summer long, you have to have a break here or there.

“I think he’s programmed that into his body pretty well.”

A big part of his mixed results this season come as a result of changing his swing style. Until this summer, he’s played a draw off the tee, but he’s since switched over to a play a fade.

“Sometimes I kind of overcook it a little bit, and get a little bit crooked, but we’re working on it,” says Bursey, who is coached by former national coach Henry Brunton.

“I’m pretty scrambly. that’s what led to try to play the fade because it’s a little bit easier to control and hit fairways.”

In the first round of the Games golf at the Milby Golf Club just outside Sherbrooke, Bursey only hit six fairways but still managed to score an even par 73.

Bursey shot a four-over 77 in the second round, putting him in a tie for 7th heading in the third round on Friday. That said, he enjoys the course and its challenging greens.

“So many courses nowadays are so long that the greens are kind of boring in a sense. But with this course, the main defense is the greens, so that’s kind of unique. It’s got some character to it.”

Bursey has one year of high school left at Gander Collegiate and after that it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll be teeing off for an NCAA division 1 school come fall 2014.

“I’ve talked to a couple of post-secondary institutions and some things are in the works, but nothing’s final yet. “Right now, I’m just focusing on the things I can control, and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.” koliver@thetelegram.com Twitter@telykenn

Organizations: Royal Colwood Golf Club, Milby Golf Club, NCAA division

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Victoria Humber Valley Garson Sherbrooke

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