BY TERRY BRIDGE, LISTOWEL BANNER SPORTS
LISTOWEL – Listowel’s Corey Conners has officially become the No. 1 ranked men’s amateur golfer in all of Canada.
Conners, a 20-year-old member of the Kent State Golden Flashes NCAA division-I golf team, sat down with Banner Sports on July 23 to discuss being ranked No. 1, how he drives the ball 300 yards and what he plans to do in golf after college, among other things.
This is part one of a two-part question-and-answer session. Check back next week for part two.
BANNER: The No. 1 ranking came in, when you first heard that what was your reaction?
CONNERS: I was pretty happy. It’s nice to see the hard work and stuff I’ve been doing to improve kind of pay off, in a way. I’ve been playing really consistently for the entire year of 2012 so far, so it’s a nice reward, I guess. I kind of knew it was coming previously, the guy who was ahead of me (Eugene Wong) I knew he was turning professional, so my result in the Porter Cup should also move me up a little higher in the overall world rankings, too.
BANNER: Where are you in the world rankings right now?
CONNERS: Like 37th I think. I should move up a little bit from the Porter Cup – a few points – from that.
BANNER: For the Canadian rankings, does Golf Canada decide that?
CONNERS: They use the world rankings, so then they just rank the Canadians according to that, so it’s done by the R&A, the governing body for golf basically in the world. There’s a points system that they have, it gives you points for each tournament you play in.
BANNER: Have you been getting a lot of feedback from family and friends on being ranked No. 1?
CONNERS: Yeah, everyone. It’s a nice recognition to have, I guess. Everyone’s been congratulating me, so it feels pretty good. Hopefully I’ll keep playing well and stay there for a while.
BANNER: How was your experience at the Porter Cup last weekend?
CONNERS: A big event, a really elite field. I did pretty well (T-9, seven-under). I was happy, I could’ve played a little better, but that’s always the case. I’m really happy, to get a top-10 there is pretty good. Not an easy event.
BANNER: That was your first time there, right?
CONNERS: Yeah, I got invited a few years ago but couldn’t play because it conflicted with the Canadian junior, so I played in that instead, but it’s really difficult to get invited… There were people from all over the world: there were people from Australia, a few Europeans. You can’t really apply for it, you’ve got to be selected to play. It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of history at the event.
BANNER: You had your best round in the first round, a four-under 66.
CONNERS: My game plan going into the tournament was just to be patient and wait for good things to happen, because I was playing really good, I felt good about my game. So I shot even par on the front and was pretty happy with that, I played well and was just waiting for some birdies to fall. Then I made two birdies early on the back nine and then the 15th – it was a par four – I drove the green. I was about eight feet away from the pin and made it for a two. That eagle helped with the score, shot four-under.
BANNER: How’s your driver doing overall these days?
CONNERS: Really good, it’s still definitely one of my strengths, and I’m hitting it in the fairway so it makes the game a lot easier.
BANNER: What’s your average driving distance right now?
CONNERS: I’m like 300 yards, sometimes a little more depending if it rolls a little bit.
BANNER: What’s the longest drive you’ve hit recently?
CONNERS: I had one that was over 350 at the (Porter Cup) tournament. It was No. 11, it was 555 or something (554) and I was by the 200-yard marker. I just swung as hard as I could.
BANNER: What are some keys – you’ve said in past interviews that you’ve added some distance off the tee over the last year or two – how have you done that?
CONNERS: I just became more efficient with my golf swing, got a little more strength. I’m hitting the ball right in the middle of the club, so that’s always really important, it helps a lot for getting more distance.
BANNER: What kind of clubs are you using?
CONNERS: All PING clubs, the PING reps in the States help out our college team a lot, so we get anything that we need. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
BANNER: How was the Ontario Amateur Championship a couple of weeks ago?
CONNERS: Really good as well. I was driving the ball really well, the course was pretty important to drive it well, so it put me in position to score. The course was really nice, but pretty tricky. I was happy with how I did, would have been nice to come out on top, but can’t win everything, I guess… Just the third round I made a double-bogey on the last hole, which kind of hurt going into the last round, put me a few more shots back.
BANNER: Still, a six-under third-place finish is pretty solid.
CONNERS: Yeah, really solid. Also I qualified for the Willingdon Cup team, the top three people. It’s played at the Canadian amateur, it’s like an inter-provincial tournament, we play against the other provinces. I was on it a few years ago when I won the Ontario amateur as well.
BANNER: Who are you teamed up with for that?
CONNERS: Albin Choi and Mackenzie Hughes. It’ll be a sweet team. Your scores get compared against the other provinces. The individual scores are combined to make a team score, so it’s pretty cool.
BANNER: So what else is on your schedule for the rest of the summer?
CONNERS: The Canadian amateur, and then the U.S. amateur is after that. I got exempt into that this year for being ranked where I am, so it was nice not to have to qualify because it’s a really tough qualifying process. You just play in a 36-hole tournament and there’s usually 80 guys for two or three spots in the tournament. It was nice to not have to go through that this year because the last two years I’ve tried to qualify, but came up short. It’s nice not to have to qualify for that, it’s a really big tournament in Colorado just after the Canadian amateur.
BANNER: What’s the format for the U.S. amateur?
CONNERS: You play stroke play 36 holes and then the top 64 after that go into a match-play tournament. If I get in the top 64 I’ll keep playing until I lose in match play, but it’s pretty big just to make the match play because there’s 312 guys, I think, in the tournament, so just to get in the top 64 you’ve got to play pretty well. But it’s definitely a goal that I have and definitely attainable.
BANNER: What do you want to do someday with golf? Do you plan to make it a career?
CONNERS: I don’t know. My plan’s just to keep working hard on my golf game and see where it takes me basically, see if I’m good enough after college to try and pursue a career professionally. It’s pretty tough, you’ve got to be really good, there’s a lot of guys out there that aren’t real good and are stressed because they can’t make any money. I’m willing to work hard, I’m going to work hard to try and get as good as I can and see if I feel like I’m good enough to give it a shot. If not, I’ll be getting a degree to fall back on.
NOTE: Check back next week for the rest of the question-and-answer session.