James Allenby’s love of golf propels him through uncertain times
April 20, 2020
By Lukas Weese, PGATOUR.COM
- April 20, 2020
- James Allenby had 5 top-25 finishes last season on the Mackenzie Tour. (Courtesy Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada)
James Allenby’s love for golf is boundless.
On a normal week, the Surrey, B.C., native performs a multitude of tasks: working part-time at his family’s Royalwood Golf Club, exercising at the gym, hitting balls at the driving range and focusing on his short game and putting.
At the end of each March, Allenby usually competes on the Vancouver Golf Tour, a local professional circuit that gears him up for the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season, where he has played 41 events since 2013.
Such is the life of a professional golfer, trying to make it to the PGA TOUR.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” said Allenby. “As hard as the grind can be, I love it.”
But these times are far from normal for the 35-year old.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, society in British Columbia, like the rest of the world, has drastically changed. Businesses, schools, bars and pubs have all closed their doors.
Social distancing is not just a public-health guideline but a way of life for the time being. Sporting events are canceled or postponed, including the first six events of the Mackenzie Tour season, as part of the PGA TOUR’s announcement on April 16.
For Allenby, who yearns for the feeling of competition, the sudden change has made it a challenge to stay inspired to improve.
“With all that’s going on and the uncertainty of not knowing when things are going to start, it’s a lot harder to stay motivated each day,” Allenby said.
Despite entering the 2019 season without Mackenzie Tour status, Allenby turned a runner-up finish at the season-opening Canada Life Open into his best-career season on the Mackenzie Tour, finishing 17th on the Order of Merit.
“All the low scores I was shooting, it was a wave I rode,” said Allenby, who posted sub-70 numbers in 21 of his 38 Mackenzie Tour rounds. “When things are great, I’ll just keep going great. When I start making birdies, I just keep going.”
Unfortunately, Allenby was unable to turn the successful season into Korn Ferry Tour status, tying for 38th at the second stage of Qualifying School.
As Allenby patiently awaits the return of professional golf, he’s found solace playing golf with friends. In British Columbia, while city golf courses are closed some remain open in the suburbs, with physical distancing restrictions, including Allenby’s home course, Royalwood Golf Club.
But Allenby admits that a few rounds with buddies pales in comparison to the preseason grind he has grown accustomed to.
“I need competition to get to a high level,” Allenby said. “I’m one of those guys who gets better when I am playing competitive golf, week after week. Right now, things are just tame, filling in the days just to fill them.”
As long as he can remember, Allenby had an indelible connection to golf. Its roots began with his grandfather Walter who is the founder of the Royalwood Golf Club. James’ mother, Sylvia, now manages the par-3 course in Chilliwack, B.C.
During his college years, Allenby nailed down the fundamentals of his golf game, but it was his demeanor on and off the course that in 2004 impressed Brian Watts, former PGA TOUR player and head golf coach at Oregon State University.
“I just remember in practice rounds, he would literally get his work in, and then he would sit and watch,” Watts said. “He would watch guys chip and putt. He was taking it all in.
“His hand-eye coordination was amazing,” continued Watts. “He was a great ball-striker and was creative around the greens, but he had this quiet confidence about him that he just knew at any time he could shoot a 63, 64, or 65.”
Allenby was a self-learner, never requiring a coach in his early years to shoot low scores. He says when his old habits hindered his game, he needed to re-learn aspects of golf again to progress his career.
Swing coach Matt Palsenberg was the answer.
Palsenberg worked with Allenby not just on his swing and fitness but on developing the confidence and persona that would help him progress towards the PGA TOUR.
“It’s so hard to get to the top,” Palsenberg said. “You have these plateauing features where you start questioning yourself. I helped James understand his swing and build confidence in his game so that he could have the consistency and work ethic to become a PGA TOUR pro.”
With Palsenberg's assistance, Allenby rediscovered how good he can be at golf, which has translated to consistent results on the course.
While there are days that can be frustrating due to the delay in competitive action and desire for life to go back to normal, Allenby is fueled by his goal of reaching the PGA TOUR.
It’s that passion for the game that he hopes allows him to return to the Mackenzie Tour in 2020 as a mentally stronger player.