Golf may be an individual sport, but Salimah Mussani believes that collaboration will take Canada’s golfers to the next level.
Mussani was named the head coach of Golf Canada’s women’s team last Friday and the Burlington, Ont. native has already set to work conferring with players and alumni alike. It’s all part of Golf Canada’s stated goal of having a total of 30 golfers on the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour within the next decade.
“How we actually get them there is by making sure they have that support team, making sure they have access to all the things that they need,” said Mussani. “Whether it’s finances, whether it’s a technical coach, whether it’s some specialty, whatever it is, you know, physio, chiro, acupuncture.
“Whatever it is that they need, that we can help them to have to be their best selves, I think is kind of the crux of getting them there.”
Part of Mussani’s process is to acquire as much information as possible from a variety of sources. Golf, like many professional sports, is increasingly data driven with analytics able to show athletes how their play is developing over a season shot-by-shot.
Mussani said she and assistant coach Jennifer Greggain will rely on that hard data but are also looking into anecdotal input. To that end, she has sent a survey to alumnae of Golf Canada’s programs, including Hall of Famers Lorie Kane, Gail Graham and Marlene Streit, to find out what they think could help the current generation of golfers.
“Everybody’s working toward the same goal and the same vision, which makes it that much more fun.”
Calgary’s Jaclyn Lee, a member of Team Canada’s young pro squad, said she appreciates Mussani’s collaborative approach. Lee believes that a healthy team-first culture will lead to strong results, even for a sport like golf which ultimately comes down to individual performances.
“(Mussani) wants to come in here and make a difference,” said Lee. “She’s not just coming here with her own ideas of what she wants to do and what she thinks it’s going to be best for the team. She’s reaching out to alum and asking what their opinions are of the program and what they felt could have been changed while they were on the team.
“I think that’s a testament to who she is, how she’s taught us, and gives a little bit of insight of how she’s going to run this team going forward.”
Mussani is a two-time Ontario junior champion, a two-time Canadian junior champion, and a key member of an NCAA runner-up golf team at Stanford University. She also competed as a professional on the Epson and LPGA Tours, as well as the former Canadian Women’s Tour.
She has held assistant coaching roles with Stanford University, University of British Columbia, and Team Canada.
Mussani believes that her background as a player and experience working with varsity athletes gives her valuable insight as a coach. She also said that being a woman coaching young women may be helpful to building relationships.
“I think, for a player to relate to a female coach, I think it’s a lot easier,” said Mussani, who noted she’s working primarily with young women between the ages of 17 and 25. “I think of myself when I was a 19-year-old girl. It would have been hard for me to pick up a phone and call an older guy and be vulnerable.
“I’ll have that closer path for the girls to get to know them and to forge that relationship in a little closer knit way.”
Maddie Szeryk agrees with Mussani. The young pro squad member from London, Ont., said that she’s looking forward to building a relationship with her new head coach.
“I think that’s part of what makes her relatable, we all feel comfortable in talking with her,” said Szeryk. “She’s just really helpful and I think just very easygoing but also is a great coach and is firm with things. She’s very encouraging.
“She’s just really eager to get going and wants to know how she can help us, looking at stats and coming out to tournaments. I know she’s really excited for the role and I think we’re all really happy for her.”