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Truro's Owen Mullen carries golf game to national stage

Truro's Owen Mullen became just the fourth Nova Scotian to be named to a Golf Canada team when he earned a spot on the national junior boys' team.  NOVA SCOTIA GOLF ASSOCIATION
Truro's Owen Mullen became just the fourth Nova Scotian to be named to a Golf Canada team when he earned a spot on the national junior boys' team. NOVA SCOTIA GOLF ASSOCIATION

Talented Truro junior becomes fourth Nova Scotian ever to earn spot on Golf Canada team

Owen Mullen is in the midst of a 14-day quarantine. Perhaps it’s an opportune time for some much-needed rest for the standout Truro golfer.

The 17-year-old returned last week from Victoria, B.C., where he attended a camp for Golf Canada’s national junior team. Mullen was one of a dozen golfers invited to last month’s selection camp at Bear Mountain and became just the fourth Nova Scotian to be named to a Golf Canada team when he earned one of the five open spots on the under-19 squad.

“There were lots of long days of practice and lots of time in the gym as well,” said Mullen, the lone Atlantic Canadian on the seven-member junior boys’ squad. “It was demanding but well worth it.

“It’s been a dream for four years now. I played my first Canadian junior championship in 2018 when I was 14. Ever since then, I’ve had that goal in mind and that’s what I’ve been working towards. I wanted to get to that level and represent my country.”

The last Nova Scotian to be named to a Golf Canada team was Truro’s Eric Banks, who was selected to the 2016 men’s national amateur squad.

Banks, who was also named to the 2012 and ’13 amateur squad and the 2011 junior boys’ team, Austin Connelly, who has family in Digby County and was selected to the 2015 men’s amateur team, and Digby’s Eric Locke, a member of the 2010 junior boys’ squad, are the only golfers from this province to achieve national team status.

For Mullen, it’s an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as Banks, whom he considers a mentor.

“I grew up down the street from where he lived in Truro. He’s been like an idol to me. When I saw him make Team Canada as a junior, that became a huge goal for me to follow in his footsteps,” Mullen said.

“He’s been really good to me. We tried to get some rounds in whenever he gets home. He actually played two events at Bear Mountain so he gave me a lot of advice about the course and specific holes and lent me his yardage books. He also told me to stay positive and that the coaches wouldn’t be necessarily looking at scores but more for the character. If a shot doesn’t go your way, you don’t want to react which would look bad on yourself. He really emphasized that.”

It’s been a dream for four years now. I played my first Canadian junior championship in 2018 when I was 14. Ever since then, I’ve had that goal in mind and that’s what I’ve been working towards. I wanted to get to that level and represent my country.

Mullen, who was confined to playing in Atlantic Canada over the summer, had a record-breaking season in the Atlantic bubble where he either broke or tied the course record at four different tracks.

He established the competitive course record at Fox Harb’r Resort (7-under 65), tied the course record (61) at his home course of Truro Golf Club and set new marks at Abercrombie Country Club (63) and Antigonish Golf Club (64). He won the Truro club championship by six shots and closed out the Nova Scotia junior boys’ championship at The Lakes with a 33 on the back nine of the final round to take the provincial title, also by six strokes.

“I obviously had a really good summer in Nova Scotia but when I got to the selection camp, I didn’t know where I stacked up with the kids from around the country. They have access to better resources and better competition,” said Mullen, who also finished fourth in the Nova Scotia men’s amateur championship.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t get to play any national events in 2020. But it was good to see that I could finish top five in such an elite field of 12 golfers at the camp. It gave me more confidence than ever.”

After going through a series of fitness and golf testing protocols during the first two days of the camp, Mullen played in a 54-hole tournament and finished fifth overall.

He will move to Victoria full-time in March. The team members will be stationed at Bear Mountain until June for training and instruction under the tutelage of national junior coach Robert Ratcliffe, who, Mullen said, “has what it takes to help take my game to the next level.”

“It’ll be awesome to live, work out and play golf together for four months,” said Mullen, who's used to living away from home, having attended Shattuck St. Mary’s school in Faribault, Minn., for Grades 10 and 11.

“I’ve become a better all-around player and have learned to score better. I feel like I have the ability now that when I’m playing well and feeling good, I can take it low and string together some low rounds.”

Depending on COVID-19 restrictions, Mullen plans to be back to Nova Scotia in June or he’ll remain out west.

“A two-week quarantine in the middle of the summer is not ideal for me,” he said.

His summer break will be short though. He’ll head to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., where he’ll join the Fighting Irish’s men’s golf team.

Mullen’s coach at Notre Dame is John Handrigan, who was Banks’ college coach at the University of Florida.

“That’s a big reason why I’m going to Notre Dame,” Mullen said. “Banks couldn’t say enough great things about him.”

In the meantime, Mullen will try to navigate calendar adjustments caused by COVID-19.

He had hoped to play in a week-long tournament this month in Florida with some of his national teammates but decided against it.

“I don’t really have any golfing plans until the next camp,” Mullen said. “I’ll just be doing some indoor training in Nova Scotia.”

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