He’s just 23 and already in his fifth year on the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada. But a year ago, Wil Bateman came very close to quitting the game of golf.
“I kind of lost the love for it at the time,” said the left-hander from Edmonton.
“Everything was geared towards, not playing, but the business side of it. I was in a bad state of mind. I was pretty close to giving it up but luckily I have good people around me to keep me grounded. I just lost sight of why I play.”
Bateman recommitted himself to the game and prepared for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in a better frame of mind. After some solid finishes to open the season, he won in his fourth start, taking top spot in the Hyundai-BBVA 89 Abierto de Chile finishing at an impressive 24 under par.
“That was the feeling I want to have,” said Bateman. “That’s what I work towards. There’s nothing like it. Now I’m way more motivated.”
Bateman finished the PGA Tour Latinoamerica 14th on the money list and with a renewed love for the game after going through the roughest patch of his young career.
“You’re always going to struggle with your game if you’re struggling mentally,” he said. “That’s just golf. They say 95 per cent of golf is mental. The other five per cent is... mental. I completely agree with that. If you’re in a bad state of mind, how can you play well?”
Now in a better frame of mind, Bateman has had a solid start to the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada season. He hasn’t missed a cut in six starts, and after a 2-under 70 on Saturday, stands at 6-under through three rounds of the ATB Financial Classic at Country Hills. For the Florida-based Bateman, playing for the second straight week in Alberta has been a treat, including a 33rd-place finish in the Syncrude Oil Country Championship in his hometown.
“Last week, it was nice to stay in my own bed,” said Bateman. “I was unpacking my things in my bedroom and I thought, I don’t remember the last time I spent a week here. I’ve been all over the place but it’s always nice to come back home and spend time with the family.”
With a short golf season, it’s tough for Alberta-born players to develop their games to be able to compete at the professional level. Bateman recognized that an early age and, with the support of his parents, moved to the southern US at 16 years old. He’s been there ever since.
“Every month you’re missing, they’re playing and they’re getting better than you are,” he said. “It’s tough. If you don’t go down south, you’re behind the curve for sure.”
With his rediscovered love for the game and some solid play, Bateman is feeling good about where he’s at and where he’s going.
“I’m still learning the ropes a little bit,” Bateman said. “You just have to keep progressing. I think everything is headed where I want to go. I just have to keep my head up and keep going.”
England’s Charlie Bull takes the lead with third round 65
Two eagles in the first five holes lifted 24-year-old Londoner Charlie Bull into the lead after 54 holes of the ATB Financial Classic. Bull sits at 16-under par, two strokes ahead of a group of four golfers, including 19-year-old Canadian Austin Connelly.
“It was a really weird day,” said Bull. “I had a four-footer for birdie on nine and missed that one. Back on hole number five, a 330-yard par four, I hit my tee shot to two feet. That’s just pure luck. I hit a nice shot, but that’s still pure luck to hit it that close and make eagle. No complaints about the round.”
Bull entered the week in 94th place on the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour money list. Earlier in the week, he checked out the ski jump at Canada Olympic Park where fellow Brit Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards became famous at the 1988 Olympics. Bull just saw the movie and couldn’t help but feel inspired.
“It would be nice to have a bit of Eddie the Eagle on my shoulder tomorrow,” he said. “I’m probably that guy right now. I’m way back on the money list. I haven’t played particularly well all season. I’m definitely the underdog, which is really nice. Everybody wants the Canadian to win. I’ll just go out tomorrow and have a good time and see what happens.”