Like a drive headed straight for the green, Justin Shin’s golf career appears right on target.
The Pitt Meadows secondary grad had a great summer with the New Mexico State Aggies, and last month was named to the national amateur golf team – meaning he is considered one of the top six amateur golfers in the nation.
“I’ve really worked hard, and that was one of my goals,” said shin of being named to Team Canada. “I’m really honoured, and really excited to work with good players in a really good program.”
The goal of Team Canada is to develop the 11 players, young up-and-comers, to their full potential, by providing the best possible support. Fitness, sports psychology, nutrition, technique, equipment and international competition are all encompassed in the program.
The team met in Florida from Nov. 21 to Nov. 27 for the first time with its new members, and Shin left with a new workout routine.
He brought some impressive credentials to the team. Shin competed in 13 tournaments for his NCAA school, and his average score was 70.8 strokes per round. He had seven top-five finishes, including a pair of seconds. The Golf Coaches Association of American named him to an all-region team.
He also competed in the 2012 NCAA West Regional golf championship as an individual, and finished tied for 27th with a three-round score of one-over-par 211.
Despite his success with the Aggies, Shin’s Team Canada trainer found he has some work to do. Fitness testing showed he needs to strengthen the muscles of his back and core.
The 21-year-old Shin takes this advice to heart. Success hasn’t gone to his head, because it hasn’t always come easily.
He started swinging a club in earnest at the age of 13, learning a love for the game from his father Dong Bun Shin, who is back in their native Korea.
“He just played for fun, but he is a big influence in golf for me.”
Justin tore it up as a young player, improving at a tremendous rate. He won numerous tournaments and accolades. From 2004-2009 he won 16 events and finished in the top three 31 times.
He was at Pitt Meadows Secondary for Grades 10-12, and by his grad year he was one of the top high school golfers in the country. He finished second at both the Canada Summer Games and the Canadian Junior Championships. He earned the B.C. Junior Boys Order of Merit (player of the year) for 2009, and was third in the Royal Canadian Golf Association Junior Boys Order of Merit.
But NCAA competition was a whole new level.
He struggled mightily as a sophomore, with an average score of 75.2 through 10 tournaments – about four and a half strokes off his pace as a junior. His best result was a fifth-place finish, and his confidence wasn’t where he needed it to be.
Shin worked with swing coach Brett Saunders of Surrey, who also works with phenom Adam Hadwin. They rebuilt Shin’s swing in time for a breakout junior year.
“He (Saunders) kind of saved my golf life,” said Shin.
Saunders said he wanted to give Shin more knowledge of his own swing, so he could analyze ball flights and diagnose any problems with his swing on his own. He found a willing pupil.
“He is always willing to improve – that’s his biggest asset.”
Saunders worked with Hadwin for 10 years, and said there is no reason Shin’s career couldn’t follow a similar trajectory. He said they share a similar approach.
“Adam always wanted to feel like he was getting better every year, and so does Justin.”
When Justin’s Team Canada fitness assessment says he needs to build muscles in his core, he’s buying into the program and putting in the work. And looking forward to the next national team event January 2-8 in Phoenix.
In the longer term, he’s got just one more season of college golf ahead of him with New Mexico, and to finish his degree in sociology. By then, he wants to be ready for Q school, and a chance to qualify for a pro tour.
“I practise hard – that’s the only way to be a good player.”