"It's gratifying to be able to give what I never had a chance to have," said golf coach Ken Gasseau under a light drizzle in a parking lot near John Rennie High School, where he picks up his trainees every Monday at about 12:15 p.m. to drive them to their practice sessions.
Through an arrangement with the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the provincial Sports Études program, Gasseau trains a group of teens aged 13 to 15, for about 15 hours a week.
Gasseau said he derives a personal satisfaction from the improvements he sees in his students' game. This could clearly be seen as he turned a watchful eye on two of the youth engaging in a rotation exercise to strengthen their core at a nearby park, tossing a ball to each other back and forth, bending up and down in exaggerated motions to put both their abdominal and arm muscles to use. "Good, Luca, you're improving," he shouted to one of the two young men.
His enthusiasm has rubbed off on his students. "He's going to help me get better," said Cory Eccles, 14, who has been addicted to the sport since he was eight, after his father introduced it to him. Eccles has made great progress under Gasseau's training, earning third place in a recent youth tournament at Little River Golf Course in North Carolina, with a total of 680 points.
An enthusiastic sportsman, Eccles is a fan of different athletic activities as well, but hopes deep down that he will be able to pursue a professional career in golf one day.
Gasseau admitted that golf has always seemed to be falling behind soccer and hockey in terms of attracting younger players' attention. "There's a lot of competition," he said. However, the sport seems to be doing better these days thanks to the popularity of golf superstars like Tiger Woods.
Liam Perignon, 13, another student of Gasseau's, said some of his friends had found it weird at first that he has chosen to stick to golf rather than the other sports, but they quickly seemed to find the value in it. "I really like the outdoors," said Perignon, adding a large part of the sport's appeal comes from playing outside, on the greens. "I'm too short to play basketball," he quipped when asked about his sports preferences.
Perignon said he has not really taken part in tournaments yet, but was looking forward to the opportunity.
For more information about Ken Gasseau's golf academy, call 514-743-1608.