TEEING OFF: Barnesky returns to the playing fields as a pro

Ryon Barnesky is back where his love of golf began.

The Chater native grew up learning the ropes at Glen Lea Golf Course and worked there for four summers. Four and a half years later, he is the club’s associate professional. The 26-year-old is as excited as anyone for the opening day of Glen Lea’s 40th season on Thursday.

“Growing up and being able to hit those milestones: breaking 100 for the first time, breaking 90, breaking 80, breaking 70 and having the opportunity to come back, this place has a special place in my heart, so it’s nice to come back like a pro and help him develop even more,” Barnesky said.

He joined the pro shop staff at Glen Lea in 2014 after high school. He didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do, but if he’s in class all day anyway, why not get paid? Barnesky soon realized that it didn’t feel like work.

“If you turn your passion into a job, it doesn’t really work,” he said.

In 2017, Barnesky headed to Fanshawe College in London, Ontario for the two-year golf and club management program. The lessons are quite practical, including food and drink, management, accounting, golf operations, golf swing analysis, and turf maintenance.

Between the two years, students must complete a six-month internship at a golf course. With the help of one of his teacher’s connections, Barnesky landed at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta. Golf Digest ranked it fifth of all courses in Canada and ScoreGolf third.

He couldn’t teach, no, he was in the back room cleaning clubs and washing carts – a job that doesn’t exist at most Westman tracks.

There really is no comparison to the superb design of Stanley Thompson in Manitoba, for several reasons. For one thing, a Glen Lea membership ($875) costs less than a foursome during peak season at Jasper Park Lodge ($250 per player). High expectations precede these kinds of pieces.

“A big thing with them was the service levels,” Barnesky said. “It’s a luxury property, so they have their standards, the Fairmont brand. It’s a lot of things that I’ve slowly developed being shaped by the Fairmont brand and take with me.

“Top notch customer service, people spending their hard-earned money to come and play golf so giving them that little bit extra, anticipating their needs…it was one of the best learning experiences to pick it all up. ”

Barnesky also improved his game, matching his career-low 3-under 67 at Glen Lea with a 3-under 68 at JPL, which is playing about six hits harder. He returned for the same job the following summer, then moved to the pro shop in 2020 and took his Playing Aptitude Test (PAT) in 2021.

The PAT is the big step in the career of a club professional. Barnesky had to shell out a few hundred dollars to apply (it’s $367 plus tax this year) and then attend one of the five events offered in Alberta that year. Previously, there were two rounds, with a maximum total of around 155, depending on the course rating. It was cut back to one round and Barnesky had to shoot the course score plus nine, which totaled 78 on his first attempt at Winston Golf Club in Calgary.

He was on cruise control, 1 cent through eight holes when the wheels fell off. His tee shot on the par-3 ninth found a back bunker, from which he launched a skull shot into the water and, sparing detail, walked with a nine. He doubled the next hole and birdied the 11th, but stumbled on the stretch and missed the mark.

He had to drop another $170 and travel to Stony Plain Golf Course near Edmonton for the next PAT. Barnesky jumped straight from his car to the first tee in windy, rainy conditions, having never seen the course and not even having a minute to warm up. He shot 79 and passed with no shots to spare.

“Knowing that I was on the number, yeah, (I was nervous),” Barnesky said. “I think I was 7-15, so on the count, and I ended up saving a few pars and got it.”

Barnesky is nearing completion of his training, but has yet to complete the PGA of Canada Training Academy program. Pros must earn 30 credits over six years, which typically costs between $5,000 and $6,000, Barnesky said. Luckily, he was able to transfer some credits from Fanshawe and will upgrade from Apprentice to Class “A” Professional status upon completion.

In the meantime, Barnesky is eager to improve the member experience at Glen Lea by adding fun tournaments, bringing back the club championship after nine years without one and counting. He is also eager to teach.

“Leading members and the public who have struggled with their golf game for five, 10, 20, 30 years,” he said, “maybe this little piece of advice can change the game for them.

Those interested in lessons can email ryon@glenleagolf.ca, call the pro shop at 204-728-9090 or connect on Instagram at @rbgolfpga.

The long, nasty winter is over and the wait ends on Thursday. Barnesky couldn’t be more excited to see his club in action.

“It’s cool, it’s come full circle,” Barnesky said. “I remember taking my first tee shot on one and swinging in the air, now I’m here as a pro.”

BIRDS : Shilo Country Club opens today, while Glen Lea and Wheat City kick off the season on Thursday and Oak Island hosts play on Friday… Mulligan’s driving range and recreation is open from noon today… The Clear Lake’s Monday Best Ball league begins mid-June and is looking for two-person teams to join. Contact Janice Meadows at 204-596-3630 or janlmeadows@hotmail.com for more information.

» tfriesen@brandonsun.com

Twitter: @thomasmfriesen

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