If someone mentions Hugo Bernard and you ask, “Who-go Who?, you haven’t been paying attention to the future of Canadian golf.
Full disclosure: That was me a couple of weeks ago.
Now I know better, and so should you.
Some close to him say he may turn out to be the best golfer ever to come out of Quebec. And that is saying a lot, considering the rich tradition of the game in that province.
Bernard, 21, has “flown under the radar for the most part,” says Derek Ingram, Golf Canada’s National Men’s Team Coach.
That’s a little surprising, seeing the 21-year-old lefty from Mont-St-Hilaire was the medallist at this year’s NCAA Division II Championship. That capped off an impressive freshman year at Florida’s Saint Leo University where he also won the NCAA’s Argonaut Invitational and posted a couple of other top four finishes in eight events. He won the Division II Golf Coaches Association of America Phil Mickelson Freshman of the Year award and was a first-team all-American.
We should have seen this coming.
In 2015, he tied for second in both the Canadian Amateur and Quebec Amateur, a title he won in 2013 as a junior. Those were just highlights from a stellar junior career.
Unlike us, Bernard did see this coming.
“I have always thought I had a good enough game to play at the highest level. My goal in my first year at college was to win at least once, and I won twice, including the big one. As well, I kept putting myself in position and if I keep doing that, I will win more.”
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Bernard has the size, strength and talent to contend in the modern pro game.
But, says Ingram, “the mini-tours are jammed with big guys with lots of talent. It’s not all about that to make it to the top. It’s about putting in the effort.”
The 15th club in Bernard’s bag, says his coach, is that almost uncoachable attribute: Hard work.
“Hugo is long and accurate off the tee. He’s got a great iron game and he continually is working on his short game. But what makes him special is his dedication to working, improving. He’s super eager to learn and he learns fast.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I know what the best players look like, whether it’s the pros or the top amateurs. I’ve always told Hugo that he has the ability to be among the top amateurs in the world. Now he is starting to believe that.”
And so should we.
(Hugo Bernard and several other Canadians will be competing this week at the historic Monroe Invitational at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y. www.monroeinvitational.com )