Ingram answers the call Mentoring Canada's brightest young golfers has taken Winnipegger around the world
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/08/2021 (665 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Just like Johnny Cash, Derek Ingram’s been everywhere, man.
At least it feels that way lately for the Winnipegger, whose passport is getting quite the workout as he bounces around the globe in his duties as national men’s golf coach. Ingram has spent nearly two straight months living out of a suitcase, including stops at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the British Open at Royal St. George’s and the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
There have also been Forme Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and non-major PGA Tour events in places such as Phoenix, Seattle and Alabama, and the U.S. Amateur earlier this week in Pennsylvania. Fittingly, Ingram was on the move when we caught up with him Thursday evening down in Florida for some one-on-one work with his prized pupil, Corey Conners, ahead of the upcoming PGA Tour playoffs.
“I’m not sure I even know my name right now,” Ingram, 51, joked in a phone interview. “It’s been the busiest stretch we’ve ever had.”
His resume is impressive, even moreso considering he comes from a place where golf courses are frozen and covered with snow for seemingly half the year. Ingram, a former PGA Tour Canada member himself, is now in his third decade of coaching. He oversees the entire men’s development program, from polished players such as Conners right down to rising stars still competing in the amateur ranks at U.S. colleges.
The only multi-time winner of the PGA of Canada’s Teacher of the Year award is living the dream, even if he’s getting a bit homesick.
“My calling is to coach golf. It’s not my job, it’s my calling, it’s what I love to do. Unfortunately, the road to the PGA Tour doesn’t go through Winnipeg for the most part,” said Ingram. “My wife and kids understand. When I’m home I try to be super-dad and try to be the best husband I can. I’m very fortunate, they understand this is what I love to do. Kim (his wife) does all the heavy lifting.”
There’s no questioning the success of the national program, which is in the best shape it’s ever been and speaks to why business is booming. There are several established pros making waves on the big tour, and an impressive pool of prospects in the pipeline.
“For a Canadian golf fan, we’ve never had more depth. Pretty thrilled with it, but there’s still a lot of work left to do,” said Ingram
‘My calling is to coach golf. It’s not my job, it’s my calling, it’s what I love to do. Unfortunately, the road to the PGA Tour doesn’t go through Winnipeg for the most part. My wife and kids understand.’ – Derek Ingram
Leading the way is Conners, now ranked a career-best 34th in the world and fresh off a 13th-place finish at the Olympics, in which the Ontario product missed qualifying for a bronze medal playoff by two strokes. Other recent big finishes include a tie for 15th at the British Open in July, a tie for 17th at the PGA Championship in May, and a tie for eighth at The Masters in April. Ingram was by his side for all those events.
“Having Derek as a coach has been instrumental in my development in all areas of my golf game,” Conners told the Free Press on Friday.
“He has immense knowledge and understanding of the game but most importantly he is a great guy.”
Conners was in the second-last group on the final day of the British Open, paired with American Jordan Spieth. In an interview with reporters at the event, he praised Ingram for helping to improve his links skills back at his home course, Bear’s Club and Dye’s Preserve, in Jupiter, Fla. He won his first PGA Tour tournament in 2019, the Valero Texas Open, and has 13 other top ten finishes under his belt including a second and two thirds, with career earnings of nearly US $9 million.
Ingram also works periodically with Mackenzie Hughes, who is currently ranked 53rd in the world. The Hamilton native just finished eighth at the British Open, then followed that up with a 50th-place showing at the Olympics after a tough final round.
“For me, being with Corey and Mackenzie, two guys I’ve coached and mentored for 11 years, was a dream come true,” said Ingram. “We started talking about Olympics and winning a medal at the Olympics 10, 11 years ago. To be there wit them (in Tokyo), it was just an incredible coaching and life experience for me.”
Ingram was at the Rio Summer Games in 2016 and said the Japanese experience was much different, due mainly to the ongoing pandemic which made it impossible to go watch other events. For example, a highlight of Brazil was being in the stadium to watch Usain Bolt run wild on the track. This time around, Ingram could only watch other events on television in his hotel room.
“It was really hotel, golf course, hotel, golf course exclusively, so that was a bit too bad,” he said.
On the Korn Ferry Tour, which is the feeder to the PGA Tour, Ingram coaches both Taylor Pendrith (Richmond Hill, Ont.) and Stuart Macdonald (Vancouver). He also oversees Jared du Toit (B.C), Chris Crisologo (B.C) and Joey Savoie (Quebec) on the lower-ranked Forme Tour, eight members of the national amateur team, and three amateur golfers on scholarships south of the border.
And then there’s Manitoba’s Aaron Cockerill, who is taking a bit of a road less travelled by teeing it up on the European Tour. Cockerill, who got as high as 369 in world rankings earlier this year and currently sits at 538, also works with Ingram and represents this province’s best pro hope since Glen Hnatiuk was a PGA Tour regular 20 years ago.
“He’s playing at maybe the second highest level of professional golf in the world, with guys like Lee Westwood,” said Ingram. “It is awesome he’s had some cool experiences, and his game is coming along. He’s slow and steady, and really smart and continuing to get better. I think its awesome for Manitoba to have a real horse in the race.”
When he was awarded the 2020 PGA of Canada coach of the year award — his third time receiving the honour — the organization cited his ability to stay connected with golfers around the world during the pandemic, including using remote tools such as CoachNow and putting together his “Garage Series” tips on social media. Although he hasn’t had a ton of time this summer due to his schedule, Ingram also runs a high-performance program at his home club of Elmhurst for juniors in the province.
Ingram is the father of two athletic-minded sons. Brent, 20, is a member of the University of Manitoba men’s golf team, while son Adam, 17, recently committed to play NCAA Division I hockey at St. Cloud State University. After skating last year with the Selkirk Steelers of the MJHL, Adam is headed to the USHL this fall to play with the Youngstown Phantoms. His WHL rights are currently held by Red Deer.
Of course, that means some additional travel in the future for Ingram, albeit of the proud parent variety.
“We’re thrilled about it,” he said. He’s also looking forward to not having a swab stuck up his nose on a near-daily basis, which is the reality of travelling right now. Being fully vaccinated has relaxed the rules a bit, including allowing him to make a few quick dashes home recently without the need to quarantine.
“I’ve probably had 45 or 50 COVID tests so far,” said Ingram. “The one the other day, at the U.S. Amateur in Oakmont (near Pittsburgh), was probably the worst. It’s like they jabbed a pen up my nose for 10 seconds.”
Once the dust on this chaotic golf season starts to settle in September, Ingram is hoping to break out his own clubs and get in a few rounds with his sons.
“I love the game and consider myself a good player, but if you don’t play… I think I’ve played nine holes with my kids maybe two or three times. I’m hoping to in the fall, but we’re probably going to need a long fall for that to happen,” he said with a chuckle. “But yeah, I’m hoping to take a deep breath soon, or a few deep breaths.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.