Shooting a 61 last year at Crown Isle — a single stroke off the course record — was the impetus Graeme Nelson needed to carry on as a serious golfer. The 24-year-old Courtenay resident, who turned pro in January, is attempting to qualify for the PGA Tour Canada.
“That was the precursor of what gave me the spark again,” said Nelson, who tees off at the tour’s qualifying tournament May 1-5 at Crown Isle. “It’s been a process in about the last five years…I was debating on hanging them up at the beginning of last spring. I was putting a lot of work in and not seeing much return. That round happened, and I realized I do have it. I won a few tournaments, and those are what made me turn pro and made me decide that I want to give this a chance.”
Last year, he teamed with Mark Valliere to win low gross at the Comox Valley Men’s Open golf tournament. Nelson also had wins at the Memorial Ironman at Crown Isle and at a Vancouver Golf Tour event in Delta.
In January, he played in a pre-qualifier for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, part of the Southwest PGA Association.
“I played pretty well for the most part but didn’t putt well enough to get a spot,” Nelson said. “It was a cheap alternative. I got down there and still had quite a bit of work to do to shake some rust off. The tournaments cost around $1,100 for a three-day pro event. This qualifier cost me a couple hundred bucks — just a good way to get the pressure going again and feel the nerves. Getting used to playing under pressure again. It was the first one of the year that kind of got me out of the gate.”
Nelson hails from Dawson Creek, but moved to Qualicum during his senior high school years to attend the Brent Morrison Golf Academy at Kwalikum Secondary School.
“When I was playing junior golf and I would come here, say for the BC Junior in 2008, I would just get stomped by these kids from here because they had just about a full season of golf. I was dealing with a four-month season. I needed to get the time in.”
Nelson spent one season working as the golf shop assistant at Crown Isle. He now works for Quick and Easy Granite in Courtenay, which can be hard on the body, but it pays bills and golf expenses.
Were it not for sponsors, Nelson wouldn’t be trying to make it as a pro.
“Just balancing work and being able to keep up the physical and the flexibility, and the touch around the green. It’s very difficult to flip back and forth from work.”