Joey Savoie: Amateur standout eager for professional success
Captured at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley on September, 11, 2020 by Tyler Costigan/ Golf Canada
Joey Savoie has long been one of the top amateur golfers in Canada and the 26-year-old is now eager to translate that success onto the professional ranks.
Golf Canada recently announced that the native of La Prairie, Que., will be returning for his second year with the Young Pro Program. In total, Savoie will be entering his fourth year with the National Team Program – having spent 2018 and 2019 as part of the Amateur Squad.
The talented young golfer still remembers first learning that he made the National Team back in 2018.
“It was my final year of college and I got a call from Derek (Ingram) and he told me that I made the team. I was graduating in accounting from Middle Tennessee State University and getting that call changed the plan a little bit,” he recalled.
“My first year was super exciting and just being part the program and getting to compete in tournaments around the world and representing Canada has been amazing in general.”
The Middle Tennessee State University grad was named the Canadian Men’s Amateur Golfer of the Year in 2018. That season would see him win the Franklin American Mortgage Tennessee Open and the Grant Clements Memorial Tournament. During Savoie’s time with the National Amateur Squad, he rose to number 24 on the world amateur rankings.
According to Ingram, Savoie’s time with the program has been well spent.
“Every area of Joey’s game has gotten a little better. He has excellent habits and routines and is a very good iron player and putter,” said the Canadian Men’s National Team head coach.
“His set up and grip have improved and Joey is now starting to see the benefits of his hard work with both myself and his home coach, Dan (Langevin). Joey’s bunker player has also really improved and he has more shots around the green. He has really matured in every area of the game.”
Savoie is quick to point out that membership in the National Team Program has it’s privileges.
“It’s great to work with Derek and learn from him and it’s also been great to take part in all the training camps. I don’t where I would be if I didn’t receive that support from Golf Canada,” he pointed out.
“Travelling the world and playing in big competitions was out of my budget so being part of the program gave me an opportunity that I’m really grateful for.”
Currently in his second year with the Young Pro Program, Savoie’s focus is to translate that amateur success onto the professional ranks.
As he is prepares for the upcoming season, Savoie took time to reflect on his humble beginnings in the sport which began in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu – a suburb approximately half an hour southeast of Montreal.
The 26-year-old recalls that his father, Pierre Savoie, and his mother, Helene Savoie, were both very supportive of his interest in golf.
“We were living on a par three course on the seventh hole as I remember. It’s public golf course in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and I got started when I was around six years old,” Savoie reminisced.
“Everyone from my mom’s side of the family was passionate about golf – especially my uncle, who played professionally,” he continued.
Savoie adds that his uncle, Jean-Louis Lamarre, was actually their neighbour.
“When I went over to his house I would see all his trophies and all his golf clubs and everything so I was intrigued at a young age. Given that everyone on my mom’s side of the family played golf and combine that with the fact that my uncle was a professional golfer, it made we want to try the game.”
And as the story goes young Joey would quickly find his passion on the golf course.
“I remember just wanting to hit the golf ball. That feeling of hitting the ball was just so fun. I was lucky to be living with the nicest play ground ever with a golf course in my backyard and I would often grab my entire bag in my free time and just try to drive the green,” he recalled.
“My granddad was also an avid golfer so since he was retired, he would sometimes pick me up after school to play 9 holes.”
While he got his start at the age of six, it wasn’t until several years later that Savoie competed in his first tournament.
“I play my first competition when I was just 10 or 11 years old. I was playing in a one round tournament to determine the provincial champion for that age category; and as I can remember I won by two shots,” Savoie revealed.
“It was kind of shock to be honest. It was my first tournament so didn’t really know what to expect. I was competitive and wanted to win, but it was my first event and I didn’t put any expectation on winning. I remember thinking ‘Oh, I beat all those guys?’ So it was just a pleasant surprise.”
After that Savoie says his parents put him into more tournaments and he started taking the sport more seriously.
“When I was 13, I think I won every tournament I played in that year, including the provincials and I was really into golf at that age and I dreamed of one day playing on the PGA Tour,” said Savoie.
“But then I grew a foot over the next year and it affected my results and it took some time to adjust to that big change,” he added.
Growing up as a student of the game, the six foot one inch Savoie says he idolized Mike Weir and Tiger Woods.
“Mike Weir is someone I really looked up to. Mike winning the Masters is a special accomplishment and something Canadian golf fans will always remember. And growing up, Tiger was such a big superstar and had so much success and he made the sport very vibrant and cool to watch,” Savoie noted.
The talented young Canadian is eager to achieve his own version of greatness on the golf course one day but he knows it can only come one step at a time. Savoie believes having a place on the Young Pro Squad sets him up for success in the pursuit of his goals.
With a hectic schedule over the past few years, Savoie says the pandemic has actually given him a chance to slow things down and reflect on his journey; and that has allowed him to achieve greater clarity on his goals.
As he looks ahead, Savoie’s goal is to enjoy success on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada this year. And within the next five years, the Young Pro Squad member has visions of making his way onto the Korn Ferry Tour, and ultimately, onto the PGA Tour.
Ingram believes with continued improvements, Savoie has what it takes to achieve his dreams.
“The top priority would be to continue to improve his ball striking as it can be a bit inconsistent. Sometimes it’s excellent, while other times there’s a few too many mistakes off the tee. But Joey is making progress,” he said.
“It’s super early in his development as a new pro as his first year was a pandemic year so he has to continue on his path of learning to be a pro, travelling and competing,” Ingram continued.
“Joey could also get a little longer but I believe he has the ability and habits to be a PGA Tour player.”
Savoie is inspired by the meaningful words coming from such a highly respected coach who has worked with other talented young Canadians to achieve their dreams in the sport. The second year Young Pro Squad member is also inspired by the success of others who have been through the program, such as Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin – to name just a few.
“It really does inspire me. And it’s good to have other players as mentors and friends to speak to also because we are all going through the same journey. It’s fun to see those guys do well because we are all on the same team,” said Savoie.
“The players on the Young Pro Squad now might be at different stages in our career but we all have potential and a ton of work ethic to try to reach our goals,” he added.
“Ever since I was I kid, my dream was to play on the PGA Tour so I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in right now; and I’m prepared to make the most out of this opportunity.”
“When you bring this talent together and bring them to one place, this opportunity to train together and help each other get better, that’s really unique and one of the biggest opportunities for this program and our juniors,” said Greggain, who added that when she was a high-level amateur she would loved to have been around other elite golfers her age.
Greggain has a wealth of experience to draw from, having played on the LPGA and Symetra Tours for 10 years before becoming a coach.
“When I retired from tour, I realized pretty quickly that what I wanted to do when I grew up was to coach,” said Greggain with a laugh.
Greggain was the director of instruction at Chilliwack Golf Club, the assistant coach for the University of the Fraser Valley, and led the B.C. Summer Games Squad on numerous occasions.
In January she joined the national team program as assistant coach of the women’s amateur and young pro squads with Tristan Mullally before she transitioned into her new role.
Greggain will help guide mental performance, physiotherapy, biomechanics and nutrition for the Canada’s top golfers while she continues her studies at the University of British Columbia’s Master of High Performance and Technical Leadership program.
The junior teams – boys and girls will train together – will be based at the national training centre at Bear Mountain Golf Resort in Victoria, which going forward will have a centralized component from March through June. Athletes will stay at the national training centre during their second semester at high school.
“I really like the model of the junior program because we have this centralized component which gives you a little more consistent contact,” said Greggain.
Jennifer Greggain named coach of Golf Canada’s National Junior Squads
PGA of Canada member Jennifer Greggain has been named coach of the National Junior Squads by Golf Canada.
Working alongside head coach Robert Ratcliffe, Greggain will help guide mental performance, physiotherapy, biomechanics and nutrition for the Canada’s top athletes. Coaching will be based at the national training centre at Bear Mountain in Victoria, B.C., featuring a centralized component from March through June which provides accommodation and education for athletes during their high school second semester.
Greggain, a resident of Chilliwack, B.C., transitions into the role after joining the national team program as assistant coach of the Women’s Amateur and Young Pro Squads in January of 2020.
Prior to joining Golf Canada, Greggain was the director of instruction at Chilliwack Golf Club, the assistant coach for the University of the Fraser Valley, and led the B.C. Summer Games Squad on numerous occasions. Before her coaching career, she was an accomplished player for more than 10 years on the LPGA and Symetra Tours.
“Jennifer brings a strong background in competitive golf to compliment a wealth of coaching knowledge that will continue to fill the pipeline with high performance athletes,” said head coach Robert Ratcliffe.
She’s both TPI and K-Vest certified and last June she enrolled in the University of British Columbia’s Master of High Performance and Technical Leadership program. Greggain is the recipient of the 2018 PGA of Canada Jack McLaughlin Junior Leader of the Year.
Coaches proud of Canadian success on PGA Tour for 2019-20 season
Corey Conners (Getty Images)
John Chidley-Hill/ Canadian Press
Although 2019-20 was a strange, start-and-stop season on the PGA Tour, it was also arguably the best-ever campaign for Canadian golfers.
Mackenzie Hughes, Adam Hadwin, Corey Conners and Nick Taylor have at various points this season all been in the top 100 of the men’s world golf rankings – a new high for Canadian players – and Taylor Pendrith tore it up on the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour.
Derek Ingram, the men’s head coach for Golf Canada, has worked with all five players and said he believes that their success this past season – after the PGA resumed following a three-month break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – is because of the group’s esprit de corps.
“There’s just a real great Team Canada feel on the PGA Tour,” said Ingram. “These guys eat together, they train together, they practise together, in the evenings because of the bubble they’re having dinner together. Each one of them pushes them to get better.”
Ingram added that there are other factors to the Canadian contingent’s success. He credits the influence of Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., whose 2003 Masters win served as an inspiration for an entire generation of Canadian golfers as well as the development programs of provincial golf associations.
Hughes, from Dundas, Ont., drew most of the attention to close out the 2019-20 season, which officially ended on Monday with the final round of the Tour Championship.
After missing nine of 11 cuts to start the season, Hughes finished second at the Honda Classic on March 1. Hughes refocused himself during the pandemic break and rocketed up the FedEx Cup standings, qualifying for the 30-player Tour Championship with a nail-biting finish at the BMW Championship where he tied for 10th.
Hughes finished the season 14th in the FedEx Cup standings after a solid performance at the Tour Championship, the highest-ever year-end ranking for a Canadian. He’ll also play in next week’s U.S. Open along with Hadwin, Conners and Pendrith in the second week of the 2020-21 season.
“They’re doing unreal,” said Ingram. “Really, the credit goes to the players and their families and how hard they’ve worked. I just can’t tell you how thrilled I am for them as a fan and as a coach of the national team.”
Pendrith, who does not yet have full PGA Tour status, earned his way into the U.S. Open with his strong and consistent play that has put him at No. 4 on the Korn Ferry Tour’s points list heading into this week’s Evans Scholars Invitational.
Another important factor has been the role of NCAA programs in developing professional golfers.
Herb Page of Markham, Ont., retired as the head coach of Kent State University’s men’s golf team last summer but is still in touch with Hughes, Conners, and Pendrith, all of whom he coached through their collegiate days at the Ohio school.
“They’ve just got someone to lean on, they’ve got that friendly face,” said Page on how camaraderie has benefited the Canadians. “It’s a tough, lonely grind out there, especially this year when you can’t bring your wife or your kids.
“I think even moreso this year (those friendships) are important.”
Although Hughes, Hadwin, Conners, and Taylor get the lion’s share of the attention among the Canadians on tour, they’re not the only ones plying their trade on the PGA.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., will make his return to action at the season opening Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa North in Napa, Calif., on Thursday. He hasn’t played since January when back pain derailed his season.
Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., and Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., will also be in the field. Ingram said that the depth of Canadian talent in men’s professional golf is also a boon for the sport.
“I’m just thrilled for golf in Canada and for the guys that have been working hard for a long time,” said Ingram. “We’ve never been deeper.”