Étienne Papineau is one of four players set to represent Canada, joining Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ont., and Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S. for the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
The 27-year-old from St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que. has enjoyed a successful 2023 season earning three professional tournament wins. Included in the three was the PGA TOUR Canada season opening tournament, the Royal Beach Victoria Open in June. Papineau went on to add five top-10 finishes with 16 of 21 tournament cuts made. In addition, he finished the season as the top Canadian on PGA TOUR Canada’s Fortinet Cup standings, placing fourth and earning his 2024 Korn Ferry Tour card.
The games are now well underway with golf set to be contested over 72-holes of individual stroke play beginning on Thursday, November 2 through to Sunday, November 5 at the Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago.
Golf Canada caught up with Papineau to look back on his successful season and his preparations ahead of the Pan Am Games.
Étienne, while the 2023 season was a successful one for you, the off-season involved knee surgery and rehabbing through injuries. Talk about the recovery process and preparing for the season…
Last winter was probably not my best one. I went through one surgery and a couple other injuries, so it was definitely a long winter for me, but you know I went through the motions, went through the process, went through rehab and everything went well in terms of recovery from my injuries. But the hardest part was trusting my body again, which was the hardest part for me mentally, especially for the first couple weeks…just to trust my body, trust my recovery and once I went through that phase of trusting my body again, I was good to go.
You earned your first professional win at the Belleville Classic as part of the Toronto Players Tour in May. What did that mean to you to win your first professional tournament after a long off-season?
It wasn’t a big field, only 30-35 players but just getting a win under my belt before the PGA TOUR Canada season started was really big for me. As I said it was a long winter, took a little bit of time for me to trust my body and I wanted to play as many events as possible before the PGA TOUR Canada season started. Getting that win was really big for me, momentum wise and confidence wise so I was really happy with that, and I was really excited going into the season with that win a couple weeks before the season started on the PGA TOUR Canada.
A couple weeks after your win in Belleville the PGA TOUR Canada season opens with the Royal Beach Victoria Open and you win that tournament as well. What can you say about the win and that stretch between May and June?
It was crazy in the sense that if you told me that two months before that tournament that I was going to win, I would have told you that that was crazy. It was a great feeling to start the season with a win like that. I think that win in Belleville two weeks before and playing in the RBC Canadian Open the week before then gave me a lot of momentum and made me feel extremely ready for the season and I showed up there and played some great golf. It was a crazy week, and I was really excited to get that win and start the season on the right foot. It was definitely a great moment in my young career.
Speaking of the RBC Canadian Open, you made your first appearance in Canada’s National Open and finished 1-over, narrowly missing the cut. What was your experience like at Oakdale Golf & Country Club?
It was definitely a really fun experience for me. I got to play in the Waste Management Phoenix Open the year before in February 2022, so I got a little bit of experience and a taste of how it works and see the best players in the world up close. Playing in the Canadian Open was a really fun experience for me…playing in my home country, I had a lot of family and friends that came to watch me play. As I said, it gave me a lot of momentum for the season. Obviously it’s always great to play in your country’s open and I was really grateful that I got my exemption from Golf Canada…it was awesome.
Fast forward to August and the Coupe Canada in Victoriaville. You earned your third win of the season but I’m sure that one was quite special being in Québec?
It was definitely a tournament that I circled in my calendar when the schedule for PGA TOUR Canada came out, it fit right in the two weeks off we had, so I definitely wanted to play that one. It’s always a fun event, there’s always a lot of people watching, especially the final round and I was in the final group that last day and I had a lot of family and friends that came to watch me get my first professional win in Québec. Celebrating with family and friends was extremely fun. It’s always fun to win a tournament but winning one in Québec, in my home province makes it feel a little bit better.
You finished as the top Canadian in the Fortinet Cup standings and fourth overall, earning your Korn Ferry Tour card for 2024. What can you say about your season on the PGA TOUR Canada…
It’s been a crazy journey so far, hopefully it’s just the beginning. I currently have my Korn Ferry Tour card and I’ll get ready for the next season and get out there and play some good golf and we’ll see what happens. It’s been a crazy last two years, year and a half…as I said, if you would have told me six to seven months ago that I’d have my Korn Ferry Tour card, I don’t think I would have believed you with all the injuries that I went through…but I got through it, I did the work that I had to do and had a great season and here we are now a couple months away from the Korn Ferry Tour season and I’m really excited…hopefully it’s just the beginning.
With the season now over, focuses shifts to the Pan Am Games. What did it mean to you to receive the call that you would be heading to Santiago?
I was really excited. I wasn’t sure at first that I was going to go because there are a lot of other Canadian players in front of me, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to get picked to go. I was definitely going to be ready for it and when I got the call from Golf Canada, I was really pumped, really excited. It’s definitely going to be a fun week with Myles, Selena and Alena. I’ve never experienced something like this…I went to the Canada Summer Games ten years ago but I’m pretty sure it’s a totally different story. It’s definitely going to be awesome, and I’m going to enjoy it and go out there with the goal of getting a medal.
What have your preparations been like since the end of the season and ahead of Santiago?
We finished the PGA TOUR Canada season in the second week of September, so I took a couple weeks off to recovery from the end of the season fatigue, but everything is good. I started up again the first week of October. This month has been a lot of golf and I’ve been in the gym a lot more the past month then the last four or five (months) because I was on the road so much. Being home and spending time with family and friends was great but the last month has been gym and golf focused, so we’re ready to go.
What can you say about the look for Team Canada in Santiago?
We got our uniforms a couple weeks before and they’re great and I think Canada is going to look good in our uniforms. We’ve received some great stuff and I’m excited to wear it and represent Canada.
Finally, you’ve been a member of Team Canada for six years. What does it mean to you to wear the Maple Leaf and represent Canada?
As a kid you always dream to represent your country in your sport, and this is a dream for me to wear the Maple Leaf at the Pan Am Games. It was definitely a goal of mine, and I didn’t think about it until mid-season of PGA TOUR Canada, with that win. I knew maybe I’d be in the selection process at least and when I got the call, I was really pumped, really excited and to go out there and represent my country means a lot to me. I’m going to enjoy the week, enjoy the competition and hopefully bring a medal back home.