Sumie Francois carded 69 in the opening round of the juvenile girls B.C. championship on Tuesday at the 72-par Crown Isle Resort near Courtenay.
The 13-year-old shot three-under par and was the only male or female golfer to break 70 that day, giving her a six-stroke lead over the girls field. It also put her one shot up on her brother, Alex Francois, 15, who finished two-under par and tied Vancouver’s Trevor Yu for first among the boys.
“I felt very happy about it,” said Sumie on Thursday before her 9:09 a.m. tee time on the final day of play. “I was proud of myself and also happy how I beat my brother.”
She sunk four birdies and conceded only one bogey on her way to the top of the leaderboard. Both are members of Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club and say the sibling rivalry isn’t heated.
On Wednesday’s second round, Sumie was less efficient and shot 79 to drop to four over par and one stroke behind the leader, Shirin Anjarwalla of Nanaimo.
“Yesterday I struggled a lot. I was hitting the ball all over the place. I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do,” she said. “Today I’m just going to calm myself down, focus on every shot and do the best I can do.”
Sumie, who enters Grade 9 at Burnaby’s Moscrop secondary in September, maintains a sharp mental edge and uses a lot of self-talk to sustain her concentration. “I always talk to myself: it’s OK, there’s still another hole, I can fix the problem. I also drink a lot of water to calm myself, too.”
On the boys’ side, Alex, held a one-stroke lead heading into the third and final round Thursday. He shot two-under-par 70 on Tuesday and followed that up with 69 on Wednesday to go five under par in the tournament and break the round-one tie for first place.
“I took everything one shot at a time and try not to make any dumb mistakes,” he said before teeing of Thursday morning. “I made a couple bad ones on the first day, I got a three put and I also hit my chip shot short.”
On the first day, Alex three-putt the par-three 12th hole for a bogey. On the same hole the next round, he gained two strokes. “I birdied it,” he said. “I tried to make sure I placed the ball on the right spot on the green to give myself a better shot.”
Also on Wednesday, he shot two bogeys by the fourth hole but answered each time with a birdie to keep his score at even par on the day. He then scored an eagle and two more birdies (plus one bogey) to shoot 36 on the front nine and 33 on the back.
Before teeing off for the final round, he said he could win if he took advantage of the four par-five holes at Crown Isle. “I’m expecting to birdie today.”
Alex was paired with Yu, who was just one shot behind at four under par and who returns to the Pacific Coast after winning at gold medal with Team B.C. at the Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke. Yu, a member of Marine Drive Golf Club, attends St. John’s School in Vancouver and is the defending Canadian juvenile champion. He won the B.C. title in 2011 and tied for second last year.
With the Shaughnessy junior team, Alex won the PGA of B.C. pro-junior title at Summerland Golf and Country Club in July.
Sumie and Alex may be members at Shaughnessy but are coached by their father, Joseph Francois, a devoted parent who’d never played a round of golf until his young son picked up a plastic toy putter. The Francois family famously converted the master bedroom of their two-bedroom Burnaby apartment into a training centre dedicated to tee shots, putting and golf skills development. He studied golf at public libraries and watched hundreds of hours of video, becoming a self-taught expert on mechanics, strategy and technique.
In a 2009 Golf Channel interview with the family, Alex and Sumie are introduced as extremely talented pre-teens “poised to head south to take over America.” The host says, “We can safely call them child prodigies.” The children are shown on the course, the two of them polite, skilled and smiling. “I want to be the best golfer in the world,” says Sumie. Alex says, “I might quit — when I die, when my body is all worn out.”
Most remarkable about the Golf Channel profile, however, is the father’s dedication and professed selflessness, an attitude he expressed then and affirmed today. “I use golf to teach my children about life. I don’t teach them golf to become a pro — if they want to become a pro, it’s not my business… it’s up to them.”
Before his son and daughter teed off in hunt of a B.C. juvenile title Thursday at Crown Isle, Francois said, “To be honest with you, all I want for my children, deep from my heart, is to get an education. After that I have nothing, nothing, nothing in my mind. I am from Haiti, for a Haitian form Haiti, I am very lucky and fortunate to be here. There is a huge opportunity here, they need me to help them take advantage of that opportunity. But it is up to them.”
In 1994 Francois moved to Vancouver from Montreal where his family had first arrived in Canada. He credits his wife, a Japanese woman also named Sumie, for giving up their bedroom and countless hours to golf practice. The sacrifice is a message to other families and for children and teens to appreciate the sacrifices of their parents, said Francois. “I want every parent, every kid to see that [video]. When the mom and dad say something to them, they will appreciate it. Sometimes kids take things for granted.”
Francois said his children’s different personalities are evident on the links. Sumie, he said, puts pressure on herself but is very mentally tough and passionate. Alex has confidence to spare and plays a more social game.
They both recognize how their father has contributed to their success. “My dad is definitely the smartest person on Earth,” said Sumie. “He is. He knows everything in life. I trust him a lot.”
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