To the casual observer, the middle of December – with its sub-zero temperatures and occasional snow flurries – might not exactly seem like golf weather.
But don’t tell that to Susan Xiao, a Morgan Creek Golf Course member and one of the top junior golfers in the country. Even as the mercury drops lower in what most golfers would consider the off-season, the Grade 11 Southridge School student can be found fine-tuning her game on Morgan Creek’s putting green, or in the gym, or at the driving range.
Or, as is increasingly the case – jetting off to some warmer locale to compete in a tournament or two. Later this week, for example, she is set to head to Arizona to take part in the Joanne Winter Silver Belle Championships.
“There’s not a lot of time off – for me, it’s basically a year-round sport,” said Xiao, sitting in a lounge chair adjacent to Morgan Creek’s pro shop.
In fact, winter is often when Xiao works the hardest – “You have to prepare yourself for the season,” she said – as she gets ready for the upcoming spring and summer, when her tournament schedule is busiest. And busy may, in fact, be an understatement – she plays events on four different tours: the Maple Leaf Golf Tour and Canadian Junior Golf Association in Canada, and the American Junior (AJGA) and US Golf Association (USGA) south of the border.
It’s that off-season dedication that Xiao credits for her success over the past 12 months – a calendar year in which she won some of the biggest events on her schedule. In August, she placed first at Canadian Junior Girls Championships in Ottawa, and a week later, won an AJGA event in Toronto. She also qualified – alongside playing partner Euna Han, who is also from Surrey – for the USGA’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-ball tournament, which is set for April.
“That was one of the big ones for me,” Xiao said of the Canadian junior title. “Going into it, it wasn’t my main goal to win – my first goal was to make the cut, then I thought maybe top-10, then top-five, and then I won.
“And the (AJGA) one was pretty special for me, too.”
Add to her list of accomplishments being named the Junior Girls Player of the Year by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association, as well as being named an honourable mention Rolex Junior All-American, and 2017 has been a pretty impressive year for the young Beijing-born golfer.
“This is probably my most successful year. I had some wins a couple years ago, but they were kind of scattered – and this year, I won two of the most important events.”
Xiao’s string of recent wins is perhaps only matched by a number of victories she had as an elementary-school aged golfer in Beijing, prior to her family moving to Canada in 2010. She took up the game at just six years old after tagging along with her father, Richard, to the local driving range.
“My dad and some of his work friends would always go to the range together, and one day he took me. I kept bothering him, so he found me a coach (there) and that’s when I started getting lessons. After about a week or so, I started hitting the ball really well, and my parents thought I had a talent for it.”
After winning a handful of youth competitions, Xiao’s family decided a move to Canada would be good for the entire family, while also providing a better environment for the young golfer to hone her skills.
“With education back in China, there is a lot of homework and not a lot of time to golf, so my parents thought it would be a more balanced (lifestyle) if we were here,” she explained.
“I kind of stopped playing (as much) while we were moving and getting used to the culture – I couldn’t even speak English when we came here. But after about half a year or so, I picked it back up and starting practising more again.”
Now, with the 2018 season on the horizon, Xiao isn’t necessarily worried about trying to top her ’17 performance, choosing instead to simply focus on her game.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself because I know that never works out well,” she said. “I just want to keep playing the best I can and win some more tournaments.”