The dedication of Swift Current golf professional Jeff Chambers towards the game has been recognized with a national award.
The 2018 PGA of Canada national awards were presented in Orlando, Florida, during PGA of Canada Night at the PGA Merchandise Show, Jan. 24.
Chambers, who is the current head professional at Elmwood Golf & Country Club, was presented with the Ben Kern Coach of the Year award.
“This took it to a whole new level, just as far as reaching out and the congratulations that I've had,” he said. “I almost feel bad, because it goes so fast on social media and so many people are so excited for me and I can't possibly respond to them all, because it's hundreds, but I just want them to know thank you. With my busy schedule it’s hard to thank everybody. It's the support of the Elmwood Golf Club, it's everybody that helps me out to get to that point. So it was really special to get this.”
This was his second national award from PGA of Canada. In 2010 he received the Jack McLaughlin Junior Leader of the Year award and since then he started to focus more on coaching.
“That was a really special award and really put me on the map of what I was doing, and a lot more people took notice,” he said. “Over the years, working on things, I've definitely changed from more of a teaching to a coaching standpoint, because I really see the value of coaching. I used to be a hockey coach for six years and I really loved it, and I just found it was a little different than a typical lesson. A lesson is just a lesson, whereas with coaching you really get involved with the player.”
He noted that it is quite a challenge to focus full-time on coaching in Saskatchewan due to the short outdoor season, and it became difficult to coach while also taking care of his duties as head professional at the golf club.
“I got burnt out, I got very sick a couple of times, and so I just had to figure out some way of doing it, because I knew how much I love coaching but I have to make a living too,” he said. “The Elmwood Golf Club has been amazing with me. Last year I went to 80 per cent workload and this year I'm going to 50 per cent workload. So that gives me a lot more time to travel with players and see more players, because it's not just juniors. I'm known for juniors, but I work with all ages. I've had lessons with people in their eighties still wanting to learn and I love that. I think that's amazing.”
He has started to do more coaching of competitive junior players who have potential to become elite players on the college level or may even move on to the PGA tour. One of his students is Saskatoon’s Josh Nagy, the 2018 Saskatchewan junior men’s golf champion.
“I expanded my coaching last year to almost 20 players from five, and so it was a big change for me,” Chambers said. “All my players had success. I had some kids that I was coaching that didn't break 90 before and they're shooting in the 70s in tournaments, and that's a huge success. You don't have to win to be successful.”
He has a very individualized approach to coaching and he is not a fan of a specific format that one can use for each player.
“This question is asked all the time and everybody says you have to have a solid philosophy, but mine changes, it flows,” he said. “It's not up on my wall. I truly believe I can make anyone better at any level or age, and the reason why I don't have a normal philosophy that I can let people have is because everybody is so individual and I coach every single person differently.”
He was asked what a standard coaching session would look like when he was interviewed after the awards presentation in Orlando, but his response was simple.
“I said there's no such thing,” he recalled. “I don't have a standard session. I'll start similar, but I'll ask the player what I can help them with and then from there it can go in a lot of different directions. I don't know what direction we're going to go. It depends on what they need, and everybody swings differently, and so I love the fact that I'm able to adapt to whoever comes through the door.”
The PGA of Canada national award was the conclusion of an outstanding 2018 for Chambers. In October he received three awards at the PGA of Canada Saskatchewan Zone awards presentation in Saskatoon.
He received the Coach of the Year award for the first time, which resulted in his nomination for the same award on the national level. He won the Professional Development award for the second time, and he received the Junior Promoter of the Year award for the seventh time since 2006.
“It was the first time that award or any award actually choked me up,” he said. “I'm always excited, but it was the first time that I got choked up and it was tough. I had some of my players in the audience and my wife was there and I wasn't really expecting to get it. I really thought that they were done giving me that award. I though it would go somewhere else, but my peers all voted for me and it was pretty awesome to get that, because it's something that's so close to me, allowing juniors to play golf or given the opportunity.”
Chambers continues to be a tournament director for the non-profit Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour (MJT). He organized six tournaments in Saskatchewan for this tour in 2018.
“It's a great tour,” he said. “It's the number one played junior tour in Canada now, and it gives kids so much opportunity to qualify for big events. It helps them with college scholarships and it's a place for them to compete. We have kids coming from other provinces every time to play in our events and so it gives our kids a chance to really compete, and then from that Maple Leaf Tour I also got my international coaching, which helped me a lot with this award.”
He was the coach of the MJT team at the 2018 Nordic Junior Team Matches in Estonia and he also coached MJT teams at six previous occasions during competitions in Australia and Scotland. He has been involved with MJT for 16 years.
“So they really helped me out,” he said. “They gave me the platform to showcase what I love to do and they're a huge reason why I am where I am now.”
His decision to focus on coaching has meant he is not able to play as much as he would like to, even though he still loves to play the game.
“My playing will take a back seat,” he said. “I still believe that I have to be able to hit the ball pretty good, because when you're demonstrating or when you're asking someone to do something you should be able to do it too. That's my belief, and so I'll always make sure my game is there, at least my shot making, but coaching is my new priority.”
This will result in changes to his position at the Elmwood Golf & Country Club in 2019. Brennan Rumancik, who has been the assistant golf professional at the club for the last nine years, will take over the head golf professional duties.
“I'm staying half time to help him through the transition, but I am stepping back so I can spend more time on the teaching and coaching role and with his 100 per cent support,” Chambers said. “He looks forward to the challenges. He's very happy that I'm staying in Swift Current. He did not want me to leave, which is great. We have a great relationship. He's a phenomenal guy, and so the club is in good hands.”
Although he has now received a national coaching award, Chambers is looking forward to grow even more in his role as a coach.
“What I do realize is how much I still have to learn,” he said. “I'll just continue doing what I'm doing, and just because there won't be a national award waiting for me does not mean it's going to slow me down. I don't do it for the awards, I do it to help people. The awards are a bonus or a recognition of it.”