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Dustin being Dustin

Written by Todd Saelhof

Dustin Risdon captured the PGA of Alberta Championship at the Edmonton Petroleum G&CC. He continues to play extremely well, winning the PGA of Alberta’s first Players’ Tour event of the season on May 24, 2017. 

Junior champion.

Professional golfer.

Caddie.

PGA of Canada assistant.

Teacher.

Dustin Risdon has been there, done that … is doing that. And somewhere along the lines, he’s still finding time to do what he does best— win golf tournaments.

But these days, golf is paying dividends for him in more ways than with just prize money.

These days, the Strathmore native is stress-free and having fun golfing.

Again.

Finally again.

“I definitely lost the fun on a number of occasions,” said the 35-year-old two-time Alberta junior kingpin and 1997 Canadian junior champ, who eventually swung his way to success on the Nationwide Tour, now the Web.com Tour, during a roller-coaster pro golf career. “I wanted to quit the game countless times.”

Good thing he didn’t, in retrospect.

While they may not be events on the Nationwide Tour, of which he played in 46 events from 2003-10, or the Canadian Open, of which he’s played in three over the years, Risdon found his way to a run of wins — and a ton of fun — during the 2016 PGA of Alberta golf season.

First, it was victory at the PGA of Alberta Assistants’ Championship with a two-day 16-under 128 at Mill Woods Golf Club.

Second, it was the PGA of Alberta Championship that saw him shoot a field-best 1-under 71 at Edmonton Petroleum Golf & Country Club.

Then, it was the SunIce Tour Championship at which he carded a two-day 11-under 133 to beat runner-up Wes Heffernan by eight strokes and set a new course record at Sundre Golf Club.

Along the way, he won seven of the eight PGA of Alberta events he entered and finished runner-up in the other.

Ridson won seven times in PGA of Alberta events in 2016.

And in the end, he was tops on the PGA of Alberta’s order of merit and grabbed — of course — its player-of-the-year honour.

It was definitely good times for the oft-reserved Risdon.

“I was having fun most of the time,” said Risdon of the key to his golf success. “When I was travelling, I kind of got the old feelings back staying in the hotel rooms by myself, thinking ‘I don’t want to be doing this anymore.’ Quebec was a real tough one (for a third-place finish at the Quebec Canadian Circuit Pro Tour), because we were way out in the middle of nowhere — I was pretty much isolated by myself, it was a four-day event, and by the end of the week, I was pretty much begging to come home.”

But his crowning achievement of the schedule was yet to come on the shores of Georgian Bay at the Lora Bay Golf Club just outside Thornbury, Ont., where he trounced the field last September to triumph at the PGA Assistant’s Championship of Canada.

“It was relaxing staying at a house instead of being stuck alone in a hotel room — and that helped,” said Risdon of bunking with a friend in a huge home by Georgian Bay. “It’s a different feeling when you’ve got someone there with you there all the time, so that made life easier.”

Indeed, Risdon rode a stress-free week to a three-day, 18-under 198, beating the nearest competition by an event-record 11 strokes to collect a $9,000 paycheque. The first two rounds of his 67-67-64 effort helped Alberta win the 36-hole inter-zone competition — again in record fashion — at the national tournament.

“I was kinda building up to that — won a few tournaments going in,” Risdon said. “The year before, I had a bad first round. I felt like I could’ve won that tournament, but I actually felt a little nervous playing at a national championship again, even though it wasn’t the Canadian Open.

“So I went in last year thinking I can play with these guys and shoot 6-under each round. I shot 5-under the first round, and I told (the PGA of Canada reporter), ‘I’m one shot behind my goal — I want to shoot 6-under every day and finish 18-under’ — and his eyes went wide open. I birdied the last three holes to finish 18-under, and he was the first guy to say, ‘Holy, you did it!’

“So just the mind was right. I had a place to stay, and I had a buddy caddying for me — I was comfortable.”

These days, he’s most comfortable teaching the game to others as an associate teaching professional at National Golf Academy in Calgary.

Risdon brings, of course, a wealth of not just knowledge but the experience of having played high-pressure golf in the top ranks of the sport. It all makes him the perfect teacher.

“The first thing I teach in a lesson is we’re going to keep this as simple as possible, so you can go out and have some fun,” Risdon said. “They’re not going out on tour, so let’s get a golf-swing groove that you can go out and rely on. And I teach them how to self-diagnose, so they don’t have 18 different thoughts in their head before they hit the ball.”

He’s especially keen on mentoring those young talents with a chance, perhaps, to follow in his footsteps.

“You can’t perfect this game — you lose 99% of the time,” said Risdon, who’s also spent time working in the much-ballyhooed junior program at Collicutt Siding Golf Club in Carstairs. “It’s hard to explain the mental side. That’s why I go out and play a lot of lesson holes with the juniors. I’ll go out and show them how to play the course and offer course management and the mental experience.”

“You never say never when it comes to playing again — but for now, it’s teaching,” added Risdon, who can be reached at dustin@nationalgolfacademy.ca. “I’d like to become more of a coach — my ultimate goal is to help juniors along that are getting ready to go to college and help them get their scholarship. I didn’t have too much of that growing up. I had a lot of offers, but I didn’t have a lot of guidance. I want to re-do what I did with other kids and get them on the right track.

“If I can get them there and get them on their way, that would be gratifying to me.”


Dustin being Dustin

This article was originally published in the 2017 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.

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