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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 3, 2004 - Issue 110


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Hemlock Can't Wait For Spring
Local Junior Golfing Star Eyes Banner Season

by Bob Oliver - The Eastern Door

golf teesMost athletes thrive on getting their sport up to scratch, but in the case of Jake "0.J." Hemlock, it's quite the opposite. The local 17-year-old PGA pro-prospect would much prefer to get his golf game down to scratch.

"Last year, I was a three handicap," said Hemlock, a member of the Caughnawaga Golf Club since he was nine. He spent this winter honing his skills at his father Angus' Kahnawake Golf Training Facility in preparation for the upcoming season. "I'm looking forward to becoming a scratch golfer and having a much better year than last." Ouch! Most of us duffers could only dream of having a summer season such as the one Hemlock experienced in 2003.

For starters, he kicked off his competitive golf year by winning Canadian Junior Golf Association's inaugural event, the Greater Ottawa Junior Open held in May at Club de Golf Hautes Plaines in Gatineau. He shot two sizzling rounds of 74-76 in cold, rainy and extremely windy conditions. Later in the same month, Hemlock followed that victory with a second-place finish at the Junior Worlds qualifier at Metropolitan Golf Club in Anjou. Shooting an uncharacteristic 80 on the first day, his back was against the proverbial wall, needing to shoot even par or better on the second day in order to qualify for the unparalleled Junior World event that was slated for late July in San Diego, California.

"That was a very proud day for me," said Hemlock, who has serious aspirations of following in the footsteps of Native North America PGA star, Notah Begay III, and playing on the Pro Tour some day in the not-too-distant future. "I put it all together and shot a 72 which included a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole."

Unfortunately for Kahnawake's latest up-and-coming star, a trip to "Sunny Cal" to play against the best junior golfers the planet has to offer, didn't materialize. CJGA executives, who choose the Canadian contingent from all of Canada's junior golfers who qualify, left Hemlock off the team.

"That was really disappointing," Hemlock lamented. "Especially after playing so well (at Metropolitan) on the second day and rallying to qualify the way I did. I would have loved to have gone to California and play with all the best juniors in the world."

He was justifiaby daunted, but as is the case with most successful golfers, Hemlock put that setback behind him and focused on his next competitive junior outing at Quebec's Mirabel Golf Club. That event held in late June, would earn him a spot on Team Canada East and an opportunity to play at the renowned Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ontario. Hemlock made the TCE squad by shooting rounds of 76-73.

"I was very happy to make the team and get a chance to play at the Angus Glen course. That club hosted the 2002 (PGA) Canadian Open."

Preparing for the "Battle of Pride" in late August that pitted Canada's best Eastern golfers against the cream of the Western Canadian crop, Hemlock tuned up at Hudson's Falcon Golf Club in mid-July. Playing in the Quebec Junior Masters event, he finished in a tie for second spot.

In his final and most prestigious event of the summer, the CJGA Lipton Brisk Canada Cup, Kahnawake's rising star not only played one of Canada's landmark courses, he took his game to a higher level and figuratively speaking, tore up the course and his Team Canada West opponents.

In a two-day, two-man, match-play format, the best of the east paired up against the best of the west. On the third day of the event, Canada's best junior golfers went at it playing individual, match-play singles rounds. Hemlock was the only Team Canada East competitor to win all his matches. He led his TCE contingent to a 12-4 victory over Team West. In the two-day, two-man match-play event, he won both rounds playing with teammate Wendall Touhey of Ottawa. On the final day in the singles match-play event, Hemlock defeated Saskatchewan's Devon Deobald.

"I couldn't have been happier to finish the 2003 year on such a high note," he said brimming with pride. "And being the only Team Canada East player to win all his matches was a special thrill for me. I can't wait for spring and to be playing again."

Looking to start the 2004 golf season off with a bang, Hemlock is anxious to defend his Greater Ottawa Open title on May 8-9 at Gatineau's Club de Golf Hautes Plaines.

Expect good things from Kahnawake's heralded PGA pro prospect.

EPILOGUE: Citing his dad as his best role model and teacher, he remembers his father getting him started in the sport by giving him his first golf club at the age of six. His very first round of golf, appropriately with his dad, was at Mohawk Hills Golf Club. "My dad is very encouraging and motivating," says Hemlock with conviction. "Any decision I make toward the game of golf, he backs me up unconditionally."

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