For Josh Mayo, making it to the playoffs alongside his friend Noah Norton sent him down memory lane; as teenagers they’d play until dark and close up the golf course, and they’d walk back home on the 207.
On Monday, at the first-ever Golf Quebec Indigenous Championship, they tied and went head-to-head in a six-hole playoff.
“We just fed off each other… it was back and forth, back and forth until we both got tired,” said Mayo. “It could have gone either way.”
He was one of 40-plus players who took part in the tournament, which was held at Kanawaki Golf Club.
“I was just so excited to have this opportunity for the town, not just for myself, but other people in Kahnawake who don’t participate in actual individual (golf) tournaments,” he said, adding that it gave golfers from in and out of town a taste of competitive spirit.
“Because when it’s tournament play, now you have to focus. Now you have to do your best.”
Mayo emerged the champion of the men’s division, alongside Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, who won the women’s division, John “Gummy” Rice, who won the senior men’s division, and Trisha Delormier, who won the senior women’s division.
This all-Kahnawake finish was not lost on Kerry Goodleaf. “Putting Kahnawake on the golf map around Quebec is something that I guess was the ultimate goal at the end of this and showcase Kahnawake’s top golfers,” said Goodleaf, co-founder of Club 24 Athletics Foundation, which worked hand-in-hand with Golf Quebec to put on the event.
“I think it’s just important that (the community) sees that we want them also in our competitions,” said Sandrine Bigras, competition director at Golf Quebec, which organized the tournament, following in the footsteps of Ontario, which holds annual Indigenous championships. British Columbia also held its first one this year.
Although Bigras hoped for higher registration numbers, she’s hopeful they’ll draw in more participants next year after gaining some traction from this year’s inaugural edition. “The aim is to give them the best experience and have them play next year,” she said.
“It’s super important to cross bridges and have these relations for the future and for the next generations to take advantage of having these relations in place,” said Goodleaf, adding it sets them on a path to support high-calibre athletes down the line.
Bigras expressed her gratitude for Club 24’s collaboration for the tournament, whose goal is to give back to the community by supporting Indigenous sports and athletes.
Aliyah Deer, a volunteer at the tournament, shared that she’d gotten positive feedback from participants, and she too was particularly glad to see the event bring together an all-Indigenous group of athletes, especially given that members of the Kanawaki Golf Club are from out of town.
“It’s like people in the community playing for the community,” said Carsyn Meloche, another volunteer.
She added that it gave her a feeling of pride to see all the familiar names, to know all of them are Onkwehón:we. She suggested it is also a good networking opportunity for Indigenous golfers.
“Learn from your elders, as much as you can, in golf or in life,” said Mayo. “Take as much information as you can and do the best you can with it.” He saw the tournament as a fruitful opportunity for the younger generation of players, and he believes many of the lessons learned from the sport will serve well beyond the golf course.
Mayo’s been golfing since the age of five; he was taught by his father Dan Kirby, a veteran in the sport. “He’s built it so much in my body and in my soul that it’s going to be a part of me till the day I die.”
“It’s the best individual sport there is because you are playing against yourself, you’re playing against the golf course,” he said.
When it came down to the last moments, after Mayo made a great par after the third playoff hole, Mayo said to himself, “I think I can do this. I know I can do this.”
This article was originally published in print on Friday, June 23, in issue 32.25 of The Eastern Door.