Derek INGRAM has always stood out from the crowd.
"The first time I ever met him?" says Dean North, Ingram's long-time friend and professional golf colleague. "I was 12 and hanging out at the course (in Carman). He was 14 and invited to a camp for juniors there.
"You remember those hats with the two flaps on the back? He had one of those hats and I just remember going, 'Who is this kid?' It turned out he was super friendly, full of energy and conversation. He's always been somebody who leaves an impression."
It's a good explanation for why Ingram -- 39-year-old product of West Kildonan who grew up playing golf at Sandy Hook under the wing of Manitoba golf icon Jimmy Doyle, the youngest of four brothers in a highly competitive family and a twice-published author -- has risen in reputation on a national scope. He's already been honoured twice as the Canadian PGA's teacher of the year and is considered one of the country's top four or five instructors.
Late last year, he was promoted by Golf Canada from his role as assistant coach with the men's national amateur team to head coach of the women's national amateur team.
University of Manitoba psychology professor Dr. Garry Martin knows all about impressions.
His began with a cold knock on his St. Paul's College office door. Ingram, back from a Texas college to the University of Manitoba to finish up his degree, wasn't taking one of Martin's psychology courses, but sought him out anyway.
"He mentioned he was looking for a career in golf and sure would like to know about sports psychology in golf and would I be willing to spend some time with him? It evolved from there," Martin says.
"It" being the two books they co-authored, Play Golf in the Zone and New Mental Skills for Better Golf -- Test Your Self Talk.
Martin played to a 10-handicap, so traded some help with his game in return for discussions about golf's mental side. Martin eventually started caddying for Ingram in tournaments, where they kept copious notes about all facets of those rounds.
"It wasn't long at all before we had enough down and were saying to each other, 'There's nothing out there quite like we're doing and we ought to write about it,'" Martin says.
How many people in their early 20s do you know who want to write books?
"Ah, only one," says fellow CPGA member Jason Ludke. "He's the exact opposite of 'follower.' "
Ingram is a leader because he's passionate about his work to the point where he motivates others to improve.
"I've talked to people who have taken lessons from him and that's one of the things they notice, how much he actually cared about wanting them to get better," Ludke says.
"He's becoming very recognized," North adds. "We've brought in guys like Bob Rotella (for seminars), The Atlantic (PGA) zone, they brought in Derek because they think he's a guy with that kind of stature. He's starting to get a name around the country."
Ingram not only coaches Canada's top female amateurs but also club players, young players, competitive local amateurs and pros. He has worked with many of them, like Vermilion Bay, Ont.'s Jordan Krantz, the two-time former Manitoba Amateur champ and now touring pro, for years.
In Krantz's case, it's 16 and counting. Why so long?
"Exceptional as a teacher and as a person," Krantz says. "He can always see the light of day, no matter what's going on in your life. He can make you feel great about what you're doing. I've never met anyone who can do quite the same thing."
Doug Roxburgh is not only a four-time Canadian Amateur champ (including 1974 at Niakwa) but is now Golf Canada's director of high performance programs. He very much likes how Ingram fits the current national-team equation.
"He just has a passion for the game and for sharing his knowledge," Roxburgh says. "He is a no-nonsense type of guy, a straight shooter. Sometimes the truth hurts but he's not afraid to say it and once he says it, he'll back it up with what's needed, whatever hours or practice routines; he'll spend the time."
Dave McMillan, now the head pro at Transcona, was once Ingram's business partner in the Golf Central range and is still a close friend.
"You find in any professional sport, it's always the journeyman guys, the fourth-liners, who always become the best coaches," McMillan says. "That's how I view Derek. I have so much respect for him as a player and coach now but I have as much respect for how he got to be a good player.
"He dedicated three years of his life to becoming a good player. He got beat up, went all over the place, practised his butt off and became a good player."
For a time, Ingram did criss-cross Canada and the U.S. to compete.
"I felt like it was important to test myself," Ingram says. "I think that's the thing about being a tour player, that you are a little bit like a big gambler, that you will go anywhere, play anybody for money and put up your money to play.
"You'd better have confidence and be able to do it. Sure I did some crazy things like drive through the night. Never said I was smart."
Tapping Ingram's wisdom about competing will be among the smartest things his students/players ever do.
"I would do everything I could at every single sport to be better than my brothers (Doug, Dave, Don) so I could come and play with them," Ingram says. "I never wanted to be the kid who was just there because his brothers were.
"I hate to lose at anything and that's from having older brothers, wanting to be like them and be accepted by them."
His extended family included his mentor and hero, Doyle.
"I hung around the course; he gave me a job," Ingram says. "Jim Doyle treated me like another son and Pat and his brothers treated me like another brother."
And that still means competitive.
"Hockey with the golf pros, well, the second he puts in his mouthguard, he was pretty much Mark Messier," chuckles McMillan. "He'd stick you, run over you then laugh about it when he got to the bench."
Adds Ludke: "He could turn a badminton or a squash game into a full-contact hockey game. He'd go right through you to make a shot."
Says North: "Derek, he's just full-throttle on life."
This would explain, then, a day he once spent with close friend and University of Manitoba golf team co-founder Garth Goodbrandson.
"Not long after I first met him, we drove together all the way to Texas to do a junior camp," Goodbrandson says. "We went the whole way without having the radio on for one minute. We talked the whole time about the golf swing, the mental side of the game and everything about golf for one complete day."
It's that all-in approach which Ingram offers many of those he coaches, that his phone is on any time of day or night.
"It's because I don't sleep," Ingram laughs. "When I was trying to play, I never had that. So it would be nice, now that I'm trying to help people get better, that they don't go a day or two or a week going, 'I don't know what's going on; I have no idea.' I think it's important they don't go that period where they're lost."
On his priority list, Ingram has one thing he'd really like to help with, and to that end, he is near the completion of a two-year, high-level course with the National Coaching Institute.
"It's not about golf," Ingram says. "I felt like I could learn from other coaches in other sports. That'll make me a better coach. And I want to learn more about the science of coaching. I know I'm probably the only golf guy in Canada who's done it. I wanted to challenge myself because my goal is to coach Canada to a gold medal in the Olympics.
"I've been saying that before golf got into the Olympics and I want to have a chance to do it."
Look out world, here comes Derek Ingram.
A man in
Derek Ingram is a man in demand, busy with Team Canada (amateur women) and elite players in many places. He does, however, have an open lesson book from time to time and if you've got $100, you might be able to book a slot.
Free Press: When you have a player you've never met or seen before, what's going through your brain as you walk to the lesson tee?
Ingram: "The first thing I almost always ask somebody is, 'If we're sitting here three months, six months, three years from today, what has to happen for you to feel happy with your progress?' Then I shut up and listen. They will tell me where they want to go in the next little while with their golf game. Then I'll kind of build the plan, maybe test them to make sure they're telling the truth. It's not about me, it's about what the player wants. And if they don't answer, maybe they don't trust me or maybe we just can't have a relationship. They have to be open enough to say this is what I want or dream about or that this is important to me."
FP: OK, say said player, just an average golfer, told you something unrealistic, like they wanted to have a PGA Tour card in one year. How would you handle that?
Ingram: "I want people to be realistic, so I'll test them, draw a line in the sand and say, 'Here's where you are and here's where you say you want to go and this is the gap. If you're a long way away, it's going to be very difficult.' I generally tell the truth. Life's too short to bullshit people. I'm obligated to tell them the truth."
FP: True or false, you've had the odd player take a lesson from you just so they could say they did.
Ingram: "True. I guess I don't mind, but that's not really what I'm about."