It has been a great season for UW golf, and as of recently, almost every season has been great. Back in Oct. 20, 2015, the men’s golf team claimed the gold medal at the OUA championship, becoming the second year in a row the team has placed first. That same day the women’s team came home with the silver medal. </p>
To close out the regular season, the men’s team won six straight tournaments. Leading the way on the men’s side was fifth-year Gajan Sivabalasingham, who finished first overall amongst individual men’s players, the second year in a row he has done so. This success is nothing new to Sivabalasingham who has been playing golf since the tender age of two after his sister bought him a plastic set.
In 2012, Sivabalasingham won the Ontario Junior Championship and the CN Future Links Prairie Championship. After only his first season of OUA play in 2011, he was good enough to represent Canada at the 2012 FISU games, a feat he will be repeating June 2016. Joining him will be his fellow Warrior teammate Dylan Cave, and UW assistant coach Brad Sims.
The irony in all of Sivabalasingham’s success is that he was not supposed to be in Waterloo. While in high school, he had offers from universities in the United States but due to a torn tendon in his wrist, which resulted in a performance decline, schools started to retract their offers.
The late Jack Pearse, the man at the forefront of the creation of UW’s golf program, and current head coach Dave Hollinger have been recruiting Sivabalasingham since he was 13 and have always wanted him to be a part of the program. Their presence played a huge role in his decision to play for UW and stay for all five years.
“It was the two coaches here. When I was playing through that injury, I didn’t know I was hurt and didn’t understand why I was playing so bad,” Sivabalasingham said. “But regardless of my scores they kept e-mailing, like ‘we want you to play, you’re a part of the future here,’ all this kind of stuff”
Their resilience has paid off, as Sivabalasingham will admit to himself that even though he took their offer, he considered transferring to a different school but opted to stay.
“I even thought coming here that there may be a possibility of me transferring out after the first or second year, down to another school. But as soon as I got here, I realized that I was going to stick it out. I really loved it here,” he said.
A golf score is one of the most volatile measures of success amongst all sports. Just to shoot par on a golf course is an accomplishment. Sivabalasingham was the only player to shoot under par at the OUA championhip. A bad drive, a misaligned putt, a ball in the water can not only ruin one’s score, but also challenge a player’s mentality.
Having a strong mental game is something Sivabalasingham attributes to his success.
“The biggest thing with golf is it’s almost not instinctive, just because it gives you so much time to think. In other sports, it’s very rapid fire, like when you’re playing basketball, it’s all happening in seconds. With golf you have time to stand over and think about all the things that could go wrong before you do this,” Sivabalasingham explained. “The mental game is what, I think, separates a lot of good players from great players. If you let your temper get the best of you, then you’re not going to be able to perform as well as someone who’s winning it.”
Sivabalasingham will look to cap off his final collegiate season with a strong performance at the CIS National Tournament May 2016 and the FISU games in July. But these tournaments are far from the end of his playing career; he wants to go pro.
“It’s always something that I’ve been planning on doing. I think I have the game to do it. It’s just a matter of consistency and just being able to repeat it at that level,” he said. “But it’s tough, there’s tons of guys trying to do it now. It’s a matter of working hard at it and a little bit of luck and maybe you’ll get it.”
Being a pro player is not the only thing on his radar. Sivabalasingham will be completing his mathematics and business degree this term and wants to follow his parents’ footsteps in accounting.
As for the future of the golf team, Sivabalasingham is confident that they will continue to succeed after he and Cave graduate. “Our coaches went out and got some really good young talent last year; we have five rookies on the team this year,” Sivabalasingham said. “We’ll be fine; we were winning tournaments by 19, 20 shots.”