AMATEUR GOLF - Carter Graf - from Red Deer - on the 10th hole of the Ponoka Golf Course. Graf finished third in the tournament and will represent Alberta at the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship at the Toronto Golf Club and Islington Golf Club from Aug. 7th-10th. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye/Ponoka News

Red Deer golfer eyes potential PGA career

Carter Graf, 16, closes the gap on a professional career

Carter Graf, 16, of the Red Deer Golf and Country Club is looking to close the gap on his ultimate goal of becoming a professional golfer. He took another giant leap towards that goal when he finished third at the Alberta Amateur Championship at the Ponoka Golf Club, finishing -9 under par overall.

Graf played in the final group with Brett Hogan of the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, who finished first, and second place Max Sekulic out of the Grande Prairie Golf and Country Club – who both competed in a two-hole playoff to decide the tournament.

“It was pretty good; it was a fun experience and it was a good learning experience,” Graf said. “I would have loved to come Top 10 going into that tournament. I was playing pretty well all year going into it, but I wasn’t expecting to come third.”

Graf was generally unfamiliar with the course.

“I played a one-day tournament there when I was really little but other then that I have only played it a few times,” he said. “I wasn’t that familiar with the golf course before the tournament.”

Graf credits his game for keeping him in the tournament, despite incremental weather and the added stress of being in the final group.

“It was a lot of good plays,” he said. “The greens were rolling really nicely. You were able to make putts quite easily. They were really sloped though, so I feel I put a lot of my iron shots in good position close to the hole. I was able to give my self good looks at birdies. I was really consistent all the way around.

“I didn’t lose a golf ball the whole tournament, so that made sure that I didn’t put any large numbers on the score card.”

Being in such a tight tournament was a good learning experience, according to Graf.

“I knew where they were,” he said. “We were all in the same group on the last day and we had a walking score board with us. I knew where things were the whole day. It is a lot of fun and it was my first experience in the final group of a tournament – especially that big of a tournament.

“It gives me some confidence. It is either the biggest, or the second biggest event in Alberta. It was great to come top three in that big of an event.”

Graf’s journey to being one of the best amateurs in the province started with a summer golf program on the west coast.

“When I was little – my parents don’t golf at all – I would go to my grandma’s house on Vancouver Island for the summers,” he said. “She put me in a golf camp for a week and I was hooked from there. When I was around 13, I really wanted to start competitive golf.”

Golfing competitively means that Graf has upped his practice game.

“I practice every single day. I am at the golf course everyday from around noon until 7:30 p.m,” he explained.

Graf is going into Grade 11 this year and he hopes his hours of practice in Red Deer will pay off in the not so distant future.

“I would like to go to a NCAA Division 1 golf school and then after that I would like to turn pro,” he said. “I just finished Grade 10 and the schools are not allowed to contact me. I am allowed to phone them, but they can’t give me any offers.”

While under NCAA rules, schools can’t offer Graf a spot on their future golf teams, that hasn’t stopped him from dreaming about where he may end up.

“Right now I am wide open for schools I would like to play at but i think the PAC 12 would be just awesome,” he said. “I would be able to stay on the west coast. I like the west coast a lot and the PAC 12 is such a prestigious athletic and academic conference. I would definitely consider going in that direction.”

Being around other competitive Alberta golfers has helped Graf see the level of competition he needs to be at.

“There is a tight-knit group of guys who are all very competitive guys,” he said. “We love to see each other play well and we also want to beat each other as well.

“I will keep trying to make my own game better and try to sharpen up my weaknesses. I want to take the steps necessary, keep up my fitness and try to put myself in situations where I can win some golf tournaments.”

Graf realizes Red Deer has afforded him many opportunities in his golf career.

“Red Deer Golf and Country Club has been a huge help supporting me and the other juniors,” he said. “They have a really nice golf course they let us play every day and I can’t thank them enough. There are lots of people in Central Alberta who have helped out.”

todd.vaughan@reddeerexpress.com