Featured Golfer: Carrie Verishagen
One of Saskatchewan’s Up and Coming Women’s Amateur Golfers Talks Golf and Nutrition
To date, this is one of my favorite SaskGolfer Featured Interviews. Whenever I can utilize high level advise from Golf Industry experts for my own personal benefit, I’m all in!
Carrie Verishagen, a Registered Dietitian in Saskatchewan, is one of Saskatchewan’s fastest rising Women’s Amateur golfers. Working hard on the driving range and competing in provincial and national championships over the last few years, Carrie has dropped her golf handicap from a 23 to a 7 in just four short years.
With the support of some of Saskatchewan’s PGA Golf Professionals, Carrie is a perfect example of how to develop your game to the fullest while living in Saskatchewan year-round. We all know the Saskatchewan summers can be limited as far as opportune golf days. Add to the fact that most golfers work a 9 to 5 job and rely on the weekend opportunities to get their fair share of games in, and developing your golf game can be a real challenge.
Many golfers in Saskatoon will recognize Carrie as she spends many hours honing her game at the Saskatoon Golf & Country Club and the The Willows Golf & Country Club, and has one of the strongest golf swings you will see on the driving range on any given day. In the winters, she can be seen at the Ramada Golf Dome in Saskatoon. Not only is her golf game sharp, she has the added benefit of being able to utilize her expertise in nutrition to gain an extra competitive edge before, during and after her rounds of golf.
I was invited by PGA of Saskatchewan Professional Clinton Schmaltz, Head Teaching Golf Professional at The Willows Golf & Country Club, to his “High Performance Workshop” earlier this spring. With many competitive golfers in attendance, young and old, Carrie was one of the Featured Speakers and delivered an amazing presentation on “Eating for Performance”. Is was clearly evident that Carrie has a strong passion for high performance golf, as she revealed many statistics and insight into how to perform your best on and off the golf course. Armed with a notebook that I bring to any Golf Education Seminar, my writing hand was sore after Carrie’s presentation!
We caught up with Carrie this summer to talk about her rise on the competitive golf scene and her work as the Contact Center Coordinator for Eat Well Saskatchewan.
SaskGolfer: You’ve had some success in the last couple of years with your golf game. How did you get started in competitive women’s golf?
Carrie: As a huskie volleyball alumni and multi-sport athlete, I can say that my extensive athletic background has grounded my interest in competitive golf. Although I don’t have a strong golf background, I did grow up at the old Greenbryre Golf and Country Club attending some junior group lessons with Peter and Dave Semko where I developed some core fundamentals as a youth. At that time I was also heavily involved with competitive fastball and although Peter encouraged me to stick with golf, I was unable to do both and choose a path in fastball. Fast forward 20 years and in 2014 after retiring from volleyball and having two children I decided to take up golf. I signed up for a ladies group lesson with PGA of Saskatchewan Professional Brad Birnie at Moon Lake who immediately saw something in me and convinced me to join competitive women’s golf. I knew I had a high swing speed and could generate power, but ultimately had no control, and no short game or course management skills. I worked with him on my mechanics for the next few years and he supported and encouraged me to start entering tournaments to gain experience. Although it helped get my feet wet, jumping in to a provincial amateur event with a high handicap and no prior experience was a very intimidating and stressful experience!
Along my journey I was very fortunate to have crossed paths with some very experienced players, including Dean Prosky, who saw me helplessly grinding on the range and took me under his wing. As intimidating as it was, he invited me to play with some amazing male competitors and it wasn’t until then that I really started to improve. Most recently I have been working with PGA Professional Clinton Schmaultz at the Willows who has also been an amazing swing coach and support. All in all, I have worked very hard at my game and brought my handicap down from about a 23 down to a 7 within four years and have met some very amazing supportive people from the golf community along the way. Eliminating big errors is still a work in progress and therefore I still have a lot of work to do if I truly want to compete with some of the top amateur women in the province.
SaskGolfer: What are some key components of nutrition golfers should implement if they are wanting to succeed in golf?
Carrie: No matter if you are a competitive or social golfer, everybody has the same common goal of trying to shoot a better score. If I told you that there may be an easy way to save 2 to 3 strokes a round would you take it? Of course you would! From experience I can tell you that golfers spend a lot of money and time each year on new equipment, lessons, training aids, etc. trying to gain a competitive advantage, but what they eat before, during or after their golf game is so often ignored. Golf is a very social game and for those just wanting to get together with friends and have fun it may not be as important. But for those who are competing or are trying to lower their handicap, I am here to tell you that proper nutrition can contribute a significant difference to your golf score. Golf is a unique game in that one golf stroke can mean the difference between winning and losing. One swing error can also blow up your score in an instant. Maintaining physical and mental stamina for 4 to 5 hours is imperative to succeed. Fueling your body with an adequate meal 3-4 hours before your round and topping up your fuel with a snack 1 hour prior can help provide your muscles and brain with the fuel they need to perform their best. If you have an early morning tee time, than your evening meal the night before and your pregame snack and on course nutrition become even more important. Have you ever played well in a round before starting to make needless mistakes or lose focus close to the final three holes? That may be one warning sign your body is losing energy as a result of not fueling properly. Eating a carbohydrate rich snack every four to six holes allows your body to maintain proper energy levels, concentration and focus over a 4 to 5 hour round. Refueling by eating a snack or meal soon after you finish your round is also important, especially if you are playing in a multi-day event.
SaskGolfer: How important is hydration on the golf course?
Carrie: Hydration is another key factor that can make or break your golf game. It still amazes me how many players forget to or just don’t pack a water bottle when they head out for a round of golf. There are not a ton of studies that examine golf nutrition specifically, however there were some very interesting studies I highlighted at the workshop that found golfers in a dehydrated state had up to a 4 stroke disadvantage per 18 hole round. Dehydration on the course was also linked to a reduction in distance and accuracy. Moreover, a high percentage of golfers begin their round in a dehydrated state which is almost impossible to recover from during a round. It is vital to optimize hydration status by hydrating before your round, and by drinking enough fluid during and after your round to replace losses through sweat. Those who are heavy sweaters may also benefit from a sports drink which contain electrolytes and have the added benefit of carbohydrates for energy. That being said, the amount of fluid a golfer needs to optimize performance is dependents on a variety of factors and is truly individual to the athlete.
SaskGolfer: What types of foods should golfers snack on during a golf round?
Carrie: Water and snacks should always be packed as part of your equipment just like your tees and golf balls. Great snacks on the golf course include those with quick release carbohydrates and a small amount of protein to help you feel full. Some of my favorites include trail mix with dried fruit, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, or a banana with a boiled egg or low fat cheese. Granola bars with a good amount of carbohydrate and protein also work well. Packing a small cooler can help keep perishable food items cold. If you are relying on the grab and go at the course, be sure they offer some healthier options ahead of time. Opt for a sandwich, fruit, nuts pretzels, or low fat muffins or loaves.
SaskGolfer: If you were to put a number on it, how much advantage does a fit golfer have over one that has hot dogs and beer at the turn over a 4 day competitive round?
Carrie: Golf is a unique game in that anyone can play it. You don’t need to be in tip top shape to swing a golf club and ultimately having more body mass has the advantage of producing more force. Throughout the history of the game professional athletes around the world were of all fitness levels and being a ‘fit’ golfer was not a common image you would see on TV. If you look at the professional athletes today however, you will notice a trend toward more fit and athletic golfers. What is the advantage? Although you can succeed at golf at any fitness level, an important benefit is that fit golfers sweat less (less dehydration) and fatigue less. As mentioned above, golf is a game of mental and physical stamina and those that fatigue less will ultimately make less errors, have higher swing speeds and have better focus and concentration throughout an entire golf round. Not only is timing important, but the types of foods we chose to eat also play a role. Choosing foods high in fat and/or sugar at the turn could ultimately slow you down or cause an upset stomach and drinking alcohol during or after a round can also have a negative impact on performance and lead to further dehydration. Therefore, in my opinion, a fit golfer who follows an individualized nutrition and hydration plan could potentially have a 10-15 strokes advantage over a four day competitive round compared to an unfit golfer who makes l
SaskGolfer: Take us through a typical day of a Dietitian.
Carrie: Registered dietitians can often be seen helping the public make dietary changes to improve their overall health, manage or prevent a chronic condition or meet their dietary goals (i.e. optimize sport performance). Dietitians work in a variety of areas including hospitals, public health, out in the community, industry or in private practice. I am in a unique position right now as I am coordinating a provincial contact center called Eat Well Saskatchewan that allows residents to contact a dietitian (similar to HealthLine) for generalized nutrition advice. As diet and nutrition are central to overall health and wellness, there is a lot of harmful misinformation surrounding what we eat that can negatively impact a person’s wellness. Dietitians are the only regulated health care professionals with a degree in nutrition and are qualified to provide reliable evidence based nutrition advice.
SaskGolfer: Do you have any suggestions to improve women’s golf and competitive women’s golf?
Carrie I would love to see more opportunities and encouragement for women interested in competitive golf in Saskatchewan. Speaking from experience as somebody who took up the sport 6 years ago with no college or junior background, it has been an uphill battle. Joining a sport where you know nobody and where competitive women are the minority, it was and still is tough to find competitive women to play with. Tournament opportunities are also limited compared to men’s golf. Many tournaments are held during week days which limits tournament access to juniors, seniors and those with ample holiday time. As a working parent (as most women in my age demographic), it is hard to find the time, resources and holidays to travel the province to really get the experience one would truly need to improve at tournament play without a junior or college background. Golf lessons from a PGA professional are valuable and extremely helpful, but not everyone can afford a swing coach and I have learned there is so much more to competitive golf than just mechanics. I was very fortunate to cross paths with some key people who helped me, but without those supports I would have fallen through the cracks as I feel many women do. I have played with some very talented amateur women whom I feel had the distance and ability to succeed at a high level had they been supported and encouraged. A few of them have now disappeared which is a shame. There are some talented up and coming junior girls which is awesome, and it is nice to see more junior girls playing at more amateur events. But let’s face it, the field of women competing at amateur events is small and increasing the participation of junior golfers does not solve the core issue which is the lack of participation from female golfers. A large demographic of women are missing. A wise volleyball coach of mine used to always say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By doing nothing to encourage or develop non-college amateur golfers I feel is a huge missed opportunity and one that needs to be addressed if the number of women playing and excelling in competitive golf in this province are to increase.
Perhaps an elite development ‘league’ or a program for women (or co-ed) would be helpful and encourage more competitive play. I feel like it would help attract and produce some great players that may or may not have a college or junior background and be a step in the right direction for competitive women’s golf. Having a platform where inexperienced players could learn from veterans would be a great way to develop game play. Perhaps there are also ways to increase tournament opportunities by having more gender neutral events. If men’s tournaments are running anyways, allowing women to enter some tournaments from the same tee boxes, or adding on a small women’s division may increase tournament opportunities for those who work and have families and can’t travel the province. Playing in more tournaments from longer tee boxes would also be a great opportunity to help prepare those interested in competing at nationals. Although advantageous, you don’t have to be a junior or college golfer to play competitive golf and I have met many great golfers that have found golf from another sport. All in all I feel that there are some amazing female athletes out there that could contribute a lot to women’s golf if the proper support, encouragement and training were in place.
SaskGolfer: What is your lowest score so far and what are some of your favorite courses to play in Saskatchewan?
Carrie: My lowest round to date is 76 from the back tees, but I plan to bring that a lot lower. As I am still so new to golf I have yet to experience all of the amazing golf courses this province has to offer. From my experiences thus far, my favorites have been Elkridge and Dakota Dunes and I always look forward to playing at Holiday Park. Nipawin Evergreen Golf Course is on my to do list as well as White Bear and Kenosee.
SaskGolfer: As a Registered Dietitian, do you have a “cheat day”?
Carrie: I don’t need to have a ‘cheat day’ as I believe all foods fit into a healthy diet in moderation. Some of my favorite “unhealthy” foods are salt and vinegar chips and one can never go wrong with a delicious poutine.
SaskGolfer: Thanks a lot Carrie for the great insight on how golfers can improve their golf game. All the best for a successful 2020 golfing season.
Carrie works as the Contact Center Coordinator for Eat Well Saskatchewan. For more information about Eat Well Saskatchewan’s services, visit their website at www.eatwellsask.usask.ca
Written by Scott Allan / SaskGolfer