COMEAUVILLE - Clare Golf and Country Club has nearly 350 members, but it is gaining fame these days for just one of them—an 18-year-old who is ranked tenth in world amateur standings.
Austin Connelly of Irving, Texas, is a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen who is Canada’s top men’s amateur golfer. He lists the Comeauville course as his home club, and has been golfing at the Digby County course nearly every summer since he was a toddler.
The teenager and his family annually visit relatives in Lake Doucette near Salmon River, and Connelly’s father Bill Connelly recalls his son quickly made himself at home at the local golf course at a young age.
“Austin started hitting golf balls in Lake Doucette at his grandparent’s home when he was two years old,” Bill Connelly said. “By the next summer, he was playing golf at the Clare golf club and played there every summer we came to Nova Scotia.”
When Connelly was 14, he competed in his first Canadian tournament, the CN Future Links Tournament at Baddeck, where he placed second.
In 2011, Connelly won the Nova Scotia midget championship and was runner-up to Truro’s Eric Banks in the provincial junior championship.
The young golfer says winning the midget championship was special for him and the banner can be seen hanging on the wall in the Clare clubhouse.
Last year, Connelly competed in over a dozen major amateur tournaments winning the FJ Tournament by six shots, and then paired with Corey Conners to win the Tailhade Cup in Argentina, a first for a Canadian team.
Last September, Connelly helped his U.S. teammates capture their fourth straight Junior Ryder Cup in Perthshire, Scotland.
As a Team Canada player, Connelly won the Jones Cup Invitational tournament in February at the Ocean Forest Golf Club in Georgia and is currently number tenth in the World Men’s Amateur Golf Rankings.
Connelly’s great-uncle David Melanson said watching Austin develop into a fine athlete has been amazing.
“Live at 5 did a segment on Austin when he was four and it was unbelievable watching his swing and putt,” Melanson. “He was right at home on the golf course.”
Desire LeBlanc, vice-president of the Clare Club, agrees with Melanson and believes Connelly has a bright future in the sport of golfing.
“I’ve watched Austin golf while he grew up and he has a natural-born talent for the sport.”
In an interview, the young golfer was enthusiasm about coming to Nova Scotia with his family during the summer.
“It’s great spending summers in Nova Scotia as it has a much cooler climate than Texas,” Connelly said. “I really appreciate the time off to relax with my family and I am looking forward to being on the Clare golf course.”
Bill Connelly said his son loves the Clare course and the people there, a warmth that is reciprocated by those at the golf course.
Ernest Muise, vice-president of Nova Scotia Golf, said the club’s board of directors, management and staff are delighted that Connelly calls their club home.
“Austin has always golfed here and has accomplished so much in his young career,” Muise said. “PR like that is priceless, you can’t buy it.”
Bill Twaddle, zone representative for NSGA, said Connelly chose Clare as his home club and when he is in Nova Scotia he plays golf every day.
“Austin will have to go through the process to turn pro and we are confident of his success,” Twaddle said. “We are certainly pleased to have him as a member of our club and he makes us proud.”
Mark Comeau who has recently taken over as general manager of the Clare club, said he is looking forward to meeting the young golfer when he comes in July and feels he will be inspirational to the club’s juniors.
Connelly is a high school senior and committed to play NCAA Division 1 golf for the University of Arkansas, but says his goal is to turn pro.
“Being a pro golfer is my goal and I plan to follow the route that achieves this goal the fastest,” he said. “My main goal is to be number one, but in the meantime I am going to enjoy my Nova Scotia family and golfing at the Clare golf club.”