Featured Golfer: Danny Klughart
Looking Back … 2019 a Year to Remember for Danny Klughart
2020 may well be a year to forget for a lot of golfers here in Saskatchewan. We get that. So this Featured Golfer article is all about an amazing 2019 golf season for one of Saskatchewan’s best all-time amateur golfers, Danny Klughart.
We caught up with Danny in the summer of 2020 and learned more about how he got into the game of golf and his advice for young amateur and junior golfers looking to take their game to the next level. Not only did Danny provide some sound advice for the next generation, but he did so without reeling off how he won this event and won that event (and there are lots!). I have a lot of respect for fellow golfers who are willing to give back to the game of golf here in Saskatchewan, mentoring the next wave of strong golfing talent that is sure to surface any summer now.
SaskGolfer: First off, congratulations on such a great 2019 golf season. How did you first get into golf and who was (and still is) influential in your success?
Danny: Thank you. Now that I have had some time to reflect, I am quite proud of my accomplishments last year and excited for the next few years.
My father was a long-time member at Cooke Municipal. I started riding around on the cart with him when I was 4, I would hop out of the cart and hit some putts and chips. I got my first membership at Cooke when I was 9 years old, Travis Jenkins, Preston Rindal, and I would play just about every day in the summer. I played in my first provincial championship in 2005 at Deer Park golf course in Yorkton and that is when I started playing competitive golf.
I definitely need to thank my father, Garry, for introducing me to the game and teaching me the basics at a young age. My parents, Garry and Arlene, were always very supportive of my passion for golf and I wouldn’t be playing at the level I am now without the time and support from them.
As I got more into competitive golf, I looked up to guys like David Stewart, Scott Thompson, Tyler Frank, and Tim Acaster. These guys were some of the best junior players in the province when I was young. I remember idolizing them and wanting to play at that level some day.
A few other guys I would like to mention that have been influential in my success are Ron Stewart, Martin Ring, Colin Coben, and Brad Phelps. I have played a lot of golf with all four of these guys and they have each in their own way given me advice on how to improve mentally and strategically to become a better player. Having support and being able to learn from players like this that have had so much success in amateur golf was a huge motivator. They put it into perspective that if I put the time and effort in, I could eventually compete at a high amateur level.
SaskGolfer: Working full time and being one of the top amateur golfers in Saskatchewan, how do you mix the two?
Danny: I definitely have to first thank my fiancé, Keanna, for being so supportive of my passion for golf. She understands how much time and energy I need to invest to be competitive and how much golf means to me.
Over the past 3 or 4 years as I have begun working full time, I have had to prioritize and make sure my time at the golf course is as efficient as possible. I plan my practice sessions based on my upcoming events or things I am struggling with before I even get to the golf course. There are times where I have to make the choice of practicing specific areas of my golf game instead of playing a round with buddies a few days before a tournament or going to the course to practice before work. I have also realized that preparing myself mentally and physically leading up to a tournament significantly improves my confidence and ability to focus. Making sure my practice has a purpose has been crucial over the past few years. When I have played the course before, I start to visualize holes at the host course for the tournament I am playing and shots that I need to hit, days if not more than a week before.
I have also prioritized fitness over the past 3 or 4 years, I had back problems when I was in my late teens and early 20’s. As I went for physiotherapy they pinpointed that this could be due to a weak back and core. Golf is an unorthodox motion and is tough on a person’s body. I feel that keeping my back, legs, and core strong allows me to swing the club with less effort and less strain on my body.
Focusing more on course strategy before I get to a tournament has allowed me to still be competitive when I don’t have my “A” game. If I am struggling with the driver I will start prioritizing getting the ball in play first. I feel that my iron and wedge game is strong enough that putting me 30-40 yards back isn’t that much of a disadvantage and if I stay patient I should still have a chance to win. If I am driving it well then, I can be more aggressive, and scoring should be a little easier.
SaskGolfer: What’s the strongest part of your golf game?
Danny: The strongest part of my game is definitely my shorter irons and full wedges. I have always been a fairly good ball striker with the shorter clubs but struggled in the wind and on soft/fast greens where controlling the spin is critical. Over the past few years I have emphasized learning how to better control trajectory and spin which have significantly improved my distance control. Feeling confident hitting draws and fades and taking the spin off wedge shots has opened up a lot of pin locations for me. Spin control is something I didn’t realize I needed to learn for a long time because for the most part the courses in Saskatchewan are firm and we need to generate as much spin as possible. Playing in national championships on soft/fast greens made me realize that if I want to compete at that level then this is a must learn.
SaskGolfer: I was paired with you on the final day at the Central Saskatchewan Amateur a couple of years ago, and one of my good friends from Kamloops, Brad Clapp, walked with us on the back nine. I could tell you admired him, as he was on the Mackenzie Tour at the time. Did you ever have (or currently have) aspirations of playing golf professionally?
Danny: I didn’t know Brad before that week, but I had heard he was playing in the Mackenzie Tour event at the Dunes and had also heard some positive things about his golf game. I think as a competitive amateur golfer, anytime you can pick someone’s brain that plays competitive golf for a living you need to do so. Everyone that plays at a high amateur level has had some kind of dream about playing on a professional tour. Asking the questions like what it takes for me to get where I am now to playing professionally? I don’t remember the specifics, but Brad was open to sharing his experience as what it takes to get to playing on the Mackenzie Tour.
I have definitely at times aspired to play professionally, more so when I was younger than now, but frankly I wasn’t even close in my opinion. As I have progressed the past few years, I have definitely started to think about it more, especially now that I have addressed some of my weaknesses that I mentioned above. The thing about turning pro is that it is such a financial and time commitment. There are so many good players and such a fine line to actually make it in professional golf. I am happy with the career I have picked but who knows what will happen down the road. I plan to continue to do everything I can to make myself a better player and we will see where that takes me.
SaskGolfer: You’ve won at all levels and venues throughout Saskatchewan, what’s one event that you’re the most proud of?
Danny: I would have to say there are two for this one.
My father passed away in April 2017, he always enjoyed watching me play and even caddied for me sometimes. I truly cherish the 2013 Lobstick victory because my father caddied for me for the last 2 matches. During the tournament that year, we were rained out during the quarterfinals and had to return back to Waskesiu 2-3 weeks after the tournament was supposed to end. My father and I spent two days up in Waskesiu together to play these matches which was something we hadn’t done since my early junior golf days. He was so proud of me when I tapped in on the final hole and the smile on his face is something I will remember forever.
My father and I would often reflect on my golf successes but there were always two tournaments we always wanted to win, the Saskatchewan Amateur and the Northern held at Cooke every August long weekend. Last year, I remember standing on the fairway on the 14th hole at the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club during the final round of the Saskatchewan Amateur after I had just hit a 4 iron from 225 yards to 15 feet when a shiver went through my whole body. I think at this moment I actually realized I had a chance to win the tournament and just how proud my Dad would be if I could pull it off. I went on to birdie the 17th hole and eventually beat Jehremy Ryde in a playoff. I know that my father would be extremely proud of this accomplishment and this is all I could think about for several weeks after. To be a provincial champion is something I have always dreamt about, and I am truly honoured to have my name on such a special trophy with so many great past champions.
SaskGolfer: You caddied for one of your good friends, Anna Young, at the 2018 CP Women’s Open. What was that week like?
Danny: It was truly a remarkable experience, I was honoured and humbled that Anna asked me to be on the bag that week. Anna and I grew up playing a lot of junior golf tournaments together all over Canada, she has always been a close friend of mine.
Watching the preparation these women put into the tournament was an eye opener, they practiced so much on and around the greens. Being inside the ropes hearing the women talk about preparation, their rounds, and upcoming events was very interesting.
We played a practice round with Anna Nordqvist, so Anna and I picked both her and her caddy’s brain about golf and life on tour. Being able to interact with the LPGA pros was something I may never get to do again and I am so happy I could share that experience with Anna at her first LPGA event.
SaskGolfer: In no particular order, what are 3 of your favourite golf courses to play in Saskatchewan?
Danny: 1. Cooke 2. Waskesiu 3. Riverside
I haven’t played Kenosee, Green Hills, or Northern Meadows though which I have heard are all hidden gems.
SaskGolfer: What are some pieces of advice you would give amateur or junior players that want to take their game to the next level?
Danny: I would say one of the main things to take your golf game to the next level is identifying your technical weaknesses. To be competitive even at a high amateur level and shoot consistently low scores you need to have a well-rounded golf game. Be honest with yourself, overcoming a weakness is definitely going to take a lot of time but if you want to get better that is what you have to do. Work with a PGA of Canada professional, these pros have taught a lot of lessons and are good players themselves.
I strongly believe that focusing on fitness will improve your golf game. Like I said above, strengthening my legs, back, and core has allowed me to swing the club faster with less effort. When you are able to do this, it is easier to maintain your posture/balance, and make good contact.
The last and arguably the most important is mental preparation. Make sure that you are mentally and physically prepared to grind for 2-4 days of competitive golf. Even at a high amateur level, you need to make sacrifices if you want to improve. One of the things I regret the most about my junior career is that I partied with my buddies all summer in between golf tournaments. I would always give myself a day or two to recover but honestly you aren’t in the proper mental state after a couple days of partying for at least 4 days after that. For us competitive golfers, we know how exhausting it is and even more so when you are in contention. Mental preparation can also be planning out how you would play certain holes and what types of shots you are going to need at the tournament course. Start envisioning yourself playing in that last group during the final round and convince yourself that the preparation you have done is enough for you to be the one holding the trophy at the end of the tournament. If you can’t, then identify what do I need to improve to get myself there. It sounds so cliché but if you want to be better than everyone else, you have to work harder, think smarter, and do things other people aren’t willing to do. It isn’t always going to be your week but by trusting your preparation you know that you have done all you could to prepare for this event.
SaskGolfer: Thanks a lot Danny for the ideal advice to the young golfers and for being such a great ambassador for the game of golf here in Saskatchewan
Written by Scott Allan / SaskGolfer