University of Victoria Vikes alumna Anne Balser (B. Ed, Digby, NS) graduated with one of the most prolific Vikes University golf careers and now, five years later, she is committing to the pursuit of a professional career. The four-time First Team All-Canadian and two-time First Team All-American has just been accepted as a candidate for PGA Canada Membership.
"This basically means that I am beginning the process of becoming a Class A professional," explains Balser, who let the world know by posting a photo of her acceptance letter on Instagram. "This pathway will allow me to teach, coach and compete on a higher level and provide me with more education and support. More specifically I get to help grow the game of golf."
Balser will be required to complete all of her National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) levels for golf as well as complete golf operations and management modules to become more familiar with the operations of running a golf pro shop and golf course. The process typically takes two to three years and is a requirement before applying for Class A status.
"Anne was a great competitor for the Vikes when she was here," said then golf head coach Bryan Carbery. "She helped us win a national championship. She represented Canada at the FISU World Universiade games. She was UVic Athlete of the Year. She really did it all in her collegiate career so it is great to see her pursuing this next step and staying so involved in the sport that gave her so much."
With the commitment to a professional status, Balser now relinquishes her amateur title and commits to teaching and playing at the professional level. The main difference settling on the fact that amateurs are not allowed to accept financial prizing for teaching or winning a tournament.
"My initial reason for not turning pro earlier was that I enjoyed competition too much," added Balser. "Throughout the years all I have heard was that as a pro you barely get to play and you spend all your time teaching. Now that I've started the process I have learned that you can compete and teach as much as you want."
"I'll essentially be my own boss, teaching and playing a game I love. Plus, I'll finally get to use my PE degree, helping to grow and develop programs and young golfers in Nova Scotia. Overall, I'm really excited about going pro and sharing my knowledge and experiences with other golfers."
Since leaving UVic, Balser has been on a whirlwind of adventures and careers. After three months of backpacking in Europe after graduating, Balser relocated to Toronto in 2013. The B.Ed. graduate spent time working as a pharmacy technician and medical clinic receptionist before deciding to do a one-year postgraduate certificate in Sport and Event Marketing at George Brown College.
An internship with Canada Basketball allowed Balser to utilize her UVic and college education in working with the women's high-performance department and she later had opportunities with Basketball World Toronto. Following her stint in Ontario, Balser relocated home to the East coast where she re-entered the world of golf and started working at the Links at Brunello golf course in Timberlea, Nova Scotia.
"I've found my place at Brunello assisting with their junior academy and helping with their camps, clinics and lessons," said Balser. "In the winter of 2017 my boss at Brunello moved to California and there was an opening to go pro within the course. So, that's why I started the process. It was only a matter of time, as I've enjoyed my time at Brunello so much. They reminded me how much I do love the game."
Nostalgia poured back into Balser's mind, crediting a lot to her UVic days as she enters this next chapter of her life.
"Bryan (Carbery), Dennis (Fedoruk), UVic and my mom are the reason I am still playing golf," said Balser of her UVic coaches and support team. "I never had proper coaching until I arrived at UVic. The coaching staff there helped me grow into a better golfer, both mentally and physically. I don't think I can ever repay them for what they helped me accomplish. I've traveled the world, played hundreds of courses, and got an amazing education, all at the same time. It was an incredible experience, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
It's still a long road before Balser can officially claim her professional status but bit by bit every experience along the way will contribute. In the short term, Balser will be working at Brunello, which will see over 200 kids through its junior programs over the next 11 weeks, and she will also be managing and helping coach the Nova Scotia provincial team that will head to the Canada Games in Winnipeg, Jul. 28 to Aug. 13.
"Since graduating UVIC, I barely played, by that point I had been playing competitively for 15 years, so I took a break," admits Balser. "My time away from the game was great, but it took me a while to realize, something was missing. As cheesy as that sounds, it was golf."
"I forgot how much I enjoyed playing, and what it felt like to be good at something. Since moving back to Nova Scotia, the Links at Brunello, have been very supportive of me, and my golf. They didn't want to push me to go pro but part of me thinks it was a part of their plan all along, which isn't a bad thing. Now that I'm back into coaching and playing, it just seems right."
Balser graduated UVic with a long list of accolades. She was named UVic Female Athlete of the Year in 2011, a four-time First Team All-Canadian from 2008-11, a two-time First Team All-American from 2010-11, a second team All-American in 2009 and she was an individual medalist in 2010 and helped the Vikes win the program's only national championship in 2008 at Victoria's Cordova Bay Golf Course.
To follow Balser's adventures check in with her on Instagram at @anniebalser.