Second-Day Surge Propels Team B.C. To Win Over Ontario In Inaugural Indigenous Challenge Match At Victoria's Bear Mountain

BC's Harry Ferguson Was Steeped In Emotion After The Inaugural Indigenous Challenge Match - All Images Credit Jeff Sutherland/Courtesy British Columbia Golf
By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

VICTORIA — Team British Columbia beat Ontario to win the inaugural Indigenous Challenge Match and Harry Ferguson, like the rest of his teammates, was happy about that.

But Ferguson, a past B.C. Senior Men’s Champion, would be the first to tell you that this two-day event played on the Mountain and Valley courses at the Bear Mountain resort, really wasn’t about who won and who lost.

Moments after winning his singles match 4&3, the 66-year-old Invermere resident got emotional when he was asked to describe what the event meant to him.

“It’s different playing for a team from your heritage,” Ferguson said, fighting back tears. “It’s totally different than going to play a BCGA event or a Canadian Amateur. You meet people from the other side of the country, from the same heritage. There’s a bond that is formed.”

British Columbia and Ontario are the first two provinces to hold provincial Indigenous championships. Ontario played its first Indigenous championship in 2022 and B.C. followed this year with a championship that was held in late May at Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course in Oliver.

It was during the organizing of that event when the idea of a match between Ontario and B.C. was hatched.

Ferguson, who competed in Oliver, was happy to be part of B.C.’s team at Bear Mountain. Both events have had a profound impact on him. “You can see why the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup are so big,” Ferguson said. “For now, this is our Solheim/Ryder Cup.”


Team BC Was Victorious In The Inaugural Indigenous Challenge Match Against Ontario At Victoria's Bear Mountain

Ferguson and others are confident that the Bear Mountain event is just the beginning. Other provinces will get on board and one day, in the not too distant future, an Indigenous national championship will be held. “Next time they have it you are going to see more younger players because people are talking about it, so it’s going to grow,” Ferguson says. “I was playing in Alberta about a month ago and I told them I was playing in this event and they were like, why aren’t we playing in it.”

A total of 32 players — 16 per side — competed in the two-day Ryder Cup-style competition at Bear Mountain. Four-ball and foursomes (alternate-shot) matches were held the first day with singles matches played the second day. Players competed in gross and net divisions.

B.C., which was trailing 9-7 after the first day of team matches, staged something of a comeback in the singles matches to earn an 18-14 win. The play of Port Alberni’s Christina Spence Proteau and Kylie Jack of Victoria was one of the keys to B.C.’s win. The two were paired together and won both of their four-ball and foursomes matches on opening day. They also both won their singles matches.

Jack, a former Simon Fraser University golfer who is now in the final year of the Indigenous Law Program at University of Victoria, played her singles match alongside her mom, Sharon Jack, who also won her singles match. In fact, mother and daughter — members of the Penticton Indian band — clinched their matches on the same hole. “It was really special to be playing with her, even though it was an early start,” Kylie Jack said of their 7:30 a.m. tee time. “And we won our matches on the same hole, so that was actually really cool.”

Camaraderie Was As Much An Integral Part Of The Event As The Competition Between Team BC (Red Shirts) & Ontario (White Shirts) 

Spence Proteau, who is one of British Columbia’s most accomplished amateur golfers, was a key organizer of both the B.C. Indigenous Championship, which she won, and the B.C.-Ontario matches. She was delighted to see B.C. stage a second-day comeback, but knows the event has a much deeper meaning.

Spence Proteau sent a note to her teammates after the opening day of the competition. “I just wanted to remind everyone they should be proud to be here, but we still want to win and beat Ontario,” she said. “You want to win. You’d be kidding yourself to say otherwise. I was happy to hear when I was off the course that things were going well.”

Spence Proteau, a Crown prosecutor in Port Alberni, said she got lots of positive feedback from fellow competitors. “Everyone seems to have really enjoyed it,” she said. “I think this is an event that hopefully will continue. I’m sure we’ll talk to the players and get some feedback, but I think this kind of took everything to the next level, having a second event this year after the Indigenous Championship.

From L-R: Past BC Golf President Patrick Kelly, B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin And Christina Spence Proteau

"I hope the other provinces can see it and I’m sure we’ll see some other provinces on board next year. My takeaway is that we will see a national championship one day. It’s just matter of time because there are plenty of good players to fill the spots and what a way to grow the game in an area that is otherwise under-represented. So I think we all have a responsibility to try and do that.”

Austin Krahn, the 16-year-old from Christina Lake who won the men’s title at the B.C. Indigenous Championship, was a member of the B.C. team at Bear Mountain and hit the shot of the tournament. Krahn aced the par 3 16th hole on the Mountain Course to help he and partner Cody Bailey of Prince George earn a tie in their foursomes match.

“It was a 6-iron from 185 yards,” said Krahn, who also won the B.C. Juvenile Boys Championship earlier this summer. “It just started on the right side of the green with a little draw, landed about five short of the pin and it just trickled out and went in.” It was Krahn’s third hole-in-one and first in competition.

Team BC's Austin Krahn, Seen Here With B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin, Hit The Shot Of The Tournament When He Aced The 16th Hole On The Mountain Course

The matches were played in cool weather with some occasional sprinkles. Thankfully, the heavy rain and winds that were forecast never materialized. The Ontario players enjoyed the experience, which included a pre-tournament dinner at Government House hosted by B.C. Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin.

Rodd Squire, Jr., of London, Ont., said it didn’t take him long to accept the invitation to play for Ontario. “As soon as I saw where it was, it was an automatic yes,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was a great event. There is so much scenery here. You can’t find anything like this in Ontario.”

The B.C. team included one player who had come to Bear Mountain to caddie for a friend. But when a member of the B.C. team had to withdraw, Florence Jack of Lillooet was added to the B.C. squad. She was more than a little nervous. Handicaps for players on the net side of the event were capped at 20.

Jack’s handicap is 30, so she was giving up some strokes to her opponents. But she held her own, dropping her singles match 3&2. “It was fun,” Jack said. “Everyone was friendly and everyone on my team was encouraging me. I held up pretty good, so I was pretty proud of myself.”

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