New-father Kevin Stinson hopes dad-strength translates to birdies at RBC Canadian Open

By: Brendan Stasiewich, PGA of Canada

On Sunday of the 2023 RBC Canadian Open, Kevin Stinson, along with a large contingent of PGA of Canada pros preparing for the PGA Championship of Canada, sat around a television inside the Bigwin Island Clubhouse, watching anxiously.

A day before the first round of the biggest event on the PGA of Canada schedule, the practice facilities were empty.

While all Canadians had vested interest in the playoff between Nick Taylor and Tommy Fleetwood, none at Bigwin Island felt the nerves of fellow British Columbia native Stinson, who grew up playing, practicing, and competing against his friend Taylor.

The rest: the putter throw, Mark Zecchinos’s iconic radio call, Adam Hadwin’s vice-grip strength on the champagne bottle and the celebration that followed, is history.

Three days later, Stinson was holding a trophy of his own, winning the PGA Championship of Canada, fittingly enough, in a playoff.

At the end of the PGA of Canada season, Stinson was on top of the PGA of Canada Player Rankings presented by ECCO Golf, earning a coveted spot in Canada’s biggest event.

While his biggest fan, his then fiancé and now wife, Alley, was able to celebrate with Stinson after his PGA Championship win, he now has a second fan on site in Hamilton with him; baby William - “Billy”.

“His lungs are very healthy,” said Stinson with a laugh, something that parents can relate to in the early stages. “My mom and dad and my wife’s parents are here to help out with the little guy, and my college teammate from Texas is caddying.”

This will be Stinson’s second PGA TOUR event, the other coming 10 years ago at the 2014 Canadian Open after Monday qualifying into the event. While the biggest difference between life now compared to then (other than, of course, having a new-born and wife), is he played golf full time a decade ago, he says that maturity is what has led to him playing some of the best golf of his career recently.

“The biggest thing now is that I’m 10-years wiser,” says Stinson., who now calls Chilliwack home “Decision making is always a little bit easier once you're a bit older. Playing golf isn't my number one anymore. I don't define myself on how well I play or what my score is anymore.”

“My little guy isn’t going to care if I shoot 100 or if I shoot 50,” continued Stinson. “10 years ago on TOUR, you know, I was kind of living week to week by what my scores were like, so I’m in a better place mentally. I guess I feel like I can enjoy the week more instead of thinking about grinding to make the cut and to make a cheque.”

The mentality seems to be working. In his past five PGA of Canada and PGA of British Columbia events, Stinson has finished no worse than 5th place, with two wins, at the aforementioned PGA Championship of Canada and the PGA Assistants’ Championship of Canada presented by Callaway Golf.

Stinson also won recently on the Vancouver Golf Tour and claimed the Order of Merit in 2021 in addition to winning the 2021 Whistler Open with a closing-round 65.

Prior to baby Billy’s arrival, Stinson says he “worked his tail off” to make sure the players he coaches at Cheam Mountain Golf Club were in a good spot with their games so he could take some time off. And now, preparing for the biggest event on the Canadian golf calendar, his full-stable of players learning under him along with his fellow PGA pros at the club are fully behind him.

“I booked a little bit of time off work here, so the weeks before the event were full of preparation,” says Stinson, who’s June calendar is already booking up with lessons for his return. “Honestly, coming into the week I didn’t really know what the course would be like. I remember (watching Rory win at Hamilton), he ripped driver everywhere.”

Stinson arrived on Saturday and got a few good looks at the course in preparation for the event. While the bells and whistles of a PGA TOUR tournament are evident, as far as the golf goes, his plan is to treat it like any other tournament.

“I think the biggest change is the fans, like, I kind of got some goose bumps,” said Stinson. “I was watching TSN and they were talking about the Rink hole, and how they start singing ‘O, Canada’ as you’re walking up, and that's where I get a bit of chills.”  

“But I remember 10 years ago, once I teed off, it didn't feel much different than the PGA TOUR Canada. It was a little bit bigger stage obviously and better players, but the golf aspect, once you got into the round, it was familiar,” said Stinson. “It's obviously the biggest stage in Canadian golf so I’m going to have to deal with those nerves but it’s going to be fun and I’m going to enjoy it.”

Stinson won’t be the only PGA of Canada professional in the field this week. Marc-Olivier Plasse defeated Clement Lepine in a playoff at the Quebec Regional Qualifier at Club de golf Le Blainviller, in Blainville, Que. to earn a direct exemption into the event.

“I was at the RBC Canadian Open the last time it was at Hamilton when my good friend Etienne Brault qualified, it will be pretty surreal to go back there and experience it again myself,” said Plasse, Apprentice Professional at La Vallée Du Richelieu Club De Golf.

For fans who want to support the PGA of Canada pros, both are paired with all-Canadian groups.

Stinson tees off alongside Myles Creighton and Michael Gligic at 2:12 on Thursday off the 10th tee, while Plasse is in the morning wave alongside Jared du Toit and Stuart Macdonald at 8:57 off the 10th tee. They will flip on Friday with Stinson at 8:57 and Plasse at 2:12.