Print Edition: November 20, 2013
This year saw fifth-year UFV golfer Aaron Pauls finally accomplish his goal of winning the coveted national championship. In the following interview with The Cascade, Pauls discusses his relationship with coach Chris Bertram, the tailwind of emotions during that final day, and what it meant to him to finally accomplish his dream of a national championship.
Talk me through the tournament and how you felt knowing UFV had a legitimate chance of winning the whole show?
Well, going into the tournament we knew that we had a pretty good shot at winning it this year. Not only was our team pretty solid but the [Cascades] team that had previously won it a decade before us were not quite as strong as us.
After the first day we were tied. We had [had] a pretty solid day, we shot five under … the second day was much tougher, it started raining a bit and me and our other top player were even. Then our fifth guy came in at two under so that was probably the biggest thing that day; we were up six shots.
Then the last day we had a “go out there and beat the other guy” mentality – if everyone could beat their guy that day then we would win it …
We kind of know what [is] going on across the course. You have five guys in a row in five different groups, so you see another guy on the tee and he sees you … you know what is going on.
On the front nine we were pretty close, then on the back nine we pulled away a bit. Coming down the last few holes was pretty easy; we knew that we had the lead.
On the last day did you feel motivated to beat teammate Darren Whitehouse so you could finish with the lower individual score?
Yeah, there is always a little bit of that. I obviously wanted him to play well too, but you always want to be the top guy on your team. I really wanted to catch the other guy [Colton Kalkanis from Georgian College]. I had a lot of good chances on that back nine and I thought if I got a few more I could come close to him, but when I came in I saw that he shot a 65. I came second but I laughed in a way … You always want to beat the other guys on your team. You’re also cheering for them, but there’s always that little bit of competition.
Was there a sense of “finally!” after four years of coming close, but not being able to beat the superpowers like Humber and Georgian?
Yeah, we went out for dinner that night with one of the vice-presidents and Rocky [Olfert], the athletic director, and Coach [Chris] Bertram. Chris talked a little about what it meant as far as winning a national championship after nine years of being a coach … Even I said how it meant a lot for me too, after five years of playing in these tournaments, to finally win one. For these kids in their first year, winning one isn’t a big deal, but for me it was a really satisfying feeling knowing that we had won it. You get a ring after all, and you’re going to have that for the rest of your life.
How was it special for you and the team to see Chris win Coach of the Year?
I have known Chris for five years now and I see the work that he put in for the last five years to make our program what it is, in finding guys and finding gear for us to wear, all the different aspects of running a program. He has been a finalist a couple of times since I have been here, but to see him win it is really cool. We won every event in our regular season, and then he wins Coach of the Year, and we win the national title. It was pretty fitting.
With the women’s team being ranked number one all year, did that add any pressure for the men’s team to win it as well?
Yeah, a little. We felt in a way ripped off a little bit because we felt that we shouldn’t have been ranked third. It wasn’t as much that we were attached to the girls, but that there were two schools ahead of us that we felt really shouldn’t have been ranked ahead of us. That was kind of a motivator too, when the rankings came out it was a “we shouldn’t have been ranked here” thing, so let’s do something about it.
This summer your team lost one of its own in Connor Richey (who passed away in August). Can you just talk about how the championship was in a way meant for Connor?
We had Connor’s initials put on all of our shirts this year. At the beginning of the year Chris told us, “when you feel like school’s not going your way or you’re a little upset or depressed or whatever on the golf course, just take a look at the initials on your arm and think about what you still have and where you are in life. Hopefully that can bring you back to more positive things.” We felt like we almost had another teammate with us. Winning it for Connor in a way was another satisfying moment after such a tragic loss.
What is next for you?
I still have a year and bit left of school … then I am probably going to be doing some more schooling at a master’s program and trying to play some more golf on the pro circuit. I’ve hopefully got some opportunities coming here that will be very tough to pass up, and after that I would love to play some pro golf.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This year was the first year of competition for the UFV Cascades women’s golf program. The squad dominated all year, finishing with an undefeated record and a national championship. Sixth-year player (and one third of the team) Jen Woods spoke to The Cascade about her game and her journey.
What school did you attend prior to coming to UFV?
What led to the decision to spend your sixth year at UFV?
I plan on becoming a life-long university student … I’m only kidding, but I really did enjoy the past semester at UFV. The timing to start planning toward graduate studies, and play golf as well was an opportunity that’s too good to pass up.
How big a part did golf coach Chris Bertram play in your decision?
Coach Bertram is doing all the right things to build a really great golf program and the team respects him and the expectations he has for us. Chris has helped me in understanding what it takes to play golf at a higher calibre.
Did you have a relationship with anyone on the team prior to coming to UFV?
Back in September I was meeting most of the team members for the first time. They are all a great bunch of people so it didn’t take long for us to get acquainted with each other.
How tough was the decision to leave UBC-O?
I’m grateful for all my past opportunities I had with UBC-O and the achievements we’d made towards building a great golf program. My former golf coach and family were instrumental in helping me realize how much I want to keep learning about the competitive golf world.
When you decided to leave how did your former teammates feel? What was it like to play against them this season?
Actually, the experience was mutually positive. My former coach and teammates have known my aspirations to continue playing golf after university, and they encouraged me to do what was necessary to take my game to the next level.
It must have been a magnificent feeling when you found out that you won nationals. Can you describe that?
The entire experience has been personally rewarding and humbling. It’s also affirming in realizing what each of us can be capable of, when matched with the right mind set.
Both you and your teammate Dani Shap are amazing golfers. Was there ever any friendly competition between the two of you for podium positions?
We both play to win golf tournaments. Even though we play an individual-based sport, the motivations of the UFV golf team and the team setting of college golf comes first and foremost. Dani, Kelley, and I are highly competitive. And that’s okay because we all have big hearts and strong mental games. I feel that our competitive mindsets and the desire to grind out our best golf every time we play is what separated us from the rest of the competition we faced this year.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.