Sam McNeill of Summerside has earned an opportunity to realize a dream.
The Grade 12 student at Three Oaks Senior High School has officially signed to play NCAA Division 2 golf with the Glenville State Pioneers of the Mountain East Conference. Glenville is located in West Virginia.
“Sam decided a couple of years ago that he wanted to dedicate himself to playing golf and he wanted to play collegiately,” said P.E.I. Golf Association executive director and provincial coach Sean Joyce. “It’s fun to see him set a goal and reach it.
“What’s fun about it, too, is it will show the other kids around that it is possible to go play golf down in the States. Sometimes, people think it’s a little far-fetched and you have to have some game to do it, but if you go through the right steps and channels it can be done.”
McNeill used the terms “pretty surreal” and “a dream come true” to describe the opportunity that awaits him.
“Playing in the States and being able to play year-round is something I’ve dreamed of for a while,” said McNeill. “Not only is it a good opportunity, but I get a chance to better my game. We don’t get the longest season here, so it gives me a great opportunity.”
McNeill started playing golf with the Dallas Desjardins-run junior program at the Summerside club at age nine. He has been a member of the PEIGA’s junior development team for the last four years that competes regionally and nationally.
“It’s like any sport, you have to put the work in to make it happen and he did,” said Joyce. “I’m not surprised he’s going where he’s going because he deserves it.”
A quick look at Sam McNeill
- Age: 18.
- Hometown: Summerside.
- Parents: Dwayne and Kim.
- Shoots: Left.
- Handicap: 2.3.
Quote: “I played hockey my whole life and my brothers played and I liked it, but golf just stood out more to me. It was more amusing. It’s an individual sport and you cannot rely on others. You really have to perform yourself. You can’t really point fingers, you have to make it happen yourself.”
It’s been a lengthy process for McNeill.
“The past year and a half, two years, I started to take it seriously,” said McNeill. “The start of this year I wrote my SATs and started to reach out to schools and really get into and figure out the recruiting process because it was new to me.”
McNeill started with about 30 schools on his radar before narrowing it down and talking “seriously” with 10 or 12 schools.
“I came across Glenville, which had a good opportunity, they offered me a good position and it felt like the right decision and suited me best,” said McNeill.
McNeill, who golfs out of Green Gables in Cavendish and Andersons Creek in Stanley Bridge, has a busy upcoming summer. He plans to play in Atlantic and national championships, along with men’s and junior tournaments.
Nationals are scheduled for Aug. 12 to 15 and McNeill, who will study business, leaves for school on Aug. 16, as freshmen need to report by Aug. 17. School starts Aug. 19 and he noted the first golf events with the Pioneers will consist of qualifying and practices.
“There are four or five tournaments in the fall and four or five tournaments in the spring,” said McNeill, who will return home at Christmas and at the end of the school year. “It is like two seasons.”
“It’s pretty surreal, it’s a dream come true. Playing in the States and being able to play year-round is something I’ve dreamed of for a while. Not only is it a good opportunity, but I get a chance to better my game. We don’t get the longest season here, so it gives me a great opportunity.”
Asked to describe his game, McNeill answered: “My short game has always been a strong point. My chipping and putting are something that I’ve always been good at.
“My ball striking and distance has come along the way the last two years. I’ve been working on swing speed and ultimately ball striking and club path a lot.
“It’s come a long ways and it’s still something I want to focus on this summer so I can make sure it’s in tip-top shape before I go away.”
Joyce praised McNeill’s ability to identify areas of his game to work on.
“About two years ago, he knew he needed to increase his length off the tee and we worked specifically on that,” said Joyce. “He put the work in and as a result this year he’s longer again and it’s only going to help him for his last year of junior, especially when he goes to play down in the States.”
Another key to McNeill’s development, noted Joyce, is competing in many events.
“Sam has a lot of experience now, which is one of the most important things in golf,” said Joyce. “When we play locally on our P.E.I. junior tour is great, but getting off-Island and getting experience against other players has really helped him blossom over the last couple of years.
“In my opinion, and I have only watched Sam from a distance a little bit during those events, but he’s become more confident as a result of that. He’s very, very patient on the golf course, which I think is one of his strongest attributes.
“He doesn’t get too rattled if he gets off to a bad start. He’s pretty steady out there.”