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Former area golfer wins 2023 Moe Norman Apprentice Professional of the Year

Mitch Bach, who grew up playing at the Forest Heights Golf Course, said he was surprised and humbled after learning he was named recipient of the PGA of Canada award

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY – A golfer who largely grew up on the course at Forest Heights northeast of Sundre said being named the PGA of Canada’s 2023 recipient of the Moe Norman Apprentice Professional award was not on his bingo card.

“It was kind of bizarre how we found out,” explained Mitch Bach, who now lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan but was originally born in Olds and grew up in the Sundre area.

While out enjoying dinner during a birthday celebration for his better half’s mom, Bach said he began to receive a bombardment of congratulatory text messages.

But he didn’t immediately know why.

“It was kind of funny because you know, there was about six or seven of us out at the old Spaghetti Factory here in Saskatoon and my phone just started blowing up from just a bunch of people congratulating me,” the 33-year-old told the Albertan on May 1 during a phone interview.

“And I had no idea what they were even congratulating me for.”

But in the meantime, Bach said he tried to prevent the plethora of text messages from taking the spotlight away from the birthday celebration at hand. Despite keeping the news “under wraps for about five minutes,” his girlfriend Melissa couldn’t help but to notice that his “phone just kept going off” and the cat was finally out of the bag.

“It was a mix of emotions. It was overwhelming. It was very humbling,” said Bach, adding he also had to look a little more into the award.

“Finding out it was the Moe Norman award of all awards; it was truly really special, for sure,” he said.

According to the PGA Canada website, Norman – who died in 2004 at the age of 75 – was “arguably the greatest ball striker in the history of golf.”

Following a successful career that included racking up many titles too numerous to mention here, Norman was eventually inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1995 and later the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. The PGA of Canada says the award is the highest honour the association can bestow on a working apprentice professional.

Bach’s parents Shelly and Ted, who to this day own and operate the Forest Heights golf course that opened in 1992 – about one year after he was born – remember how he discovered his love of the game at about the time he learned to walk.  

Shelly recalled how at just five years old, he would venture out to walk all 18 holes at the course and said she’s pleased to see him pursue his passion for the sport that he’s since harboured a life-long love affair with.

For his part, Bach – who in 2020 moved to Saskatoon where he now works at the Willows Golf & Country Club – barely remembers life without the sport.

“I’ve been golfing for pretty much as long as I’ve been alive,” said Bach, whose earliest memories of the sport date back to his time as a tyke exploring his parents’ course.

“That was my childhood growing up and lots of amazing memories that I can look back on and also revisit whenever I go back,” he said.

“Although the course has changed a little bit here and there, it’s still very nostalgic.”

While golf has always been a core aspect of his life, Bach graduated in 2014 from SAIT’s Radio, Television, and Broadcast News program to pursue a career path in sports broadcasting.

His last position prior to moving to Saskatchewan was a TV station in Medicine Hat, and Bach said he accrued about eight or nine years of journalism sportscasting prior to pivoting into communications.  

“I sold my broadcasting soul to communications and took a job with the Saskatoon Blades,” Bach said with a chuckle when asked what had prompted the move out of province.

Fast forward to 2023, which Bach described as a “big year” for him as an apprentice, and he again pivoted career paths; this time out of sports communications and back into the golf industry.  

“I’ve taken on a role here in Saskatoon as a teaching professional, as well as an apprentice professional,” he said.

And in 2022, Bach said he opened a golf academy.

“With that, I brought on a number of teaching professionals here to teach through this academy and help spread enjoyment and teaching throughout Saskatoon,” he said, adding that last year was extremely busy.

“And I guess somewhere along the way, I must have been recognized for the effort I was putting in and before you know it, you’re put on the pedestal of the PGA of Canada, which is certainly not something that I was going for but it was extremely special when I found out that I had received that,” he said.

“The next step for me is earning my Class A professional status,” he said.

Responding to a question about what keeps him passionate about playing the sport, he said with a laugh, “I mean, how much time do ya have? I can talk for a while about that.”

Doing his best to summarize, Bach said the opportunity to grow up on a golf course opened many doors.  

“I made a number of amazing memories there, built some amazing relationships and golf gave me the opportunity to travel across Canada and North America, and to other parts of the world,” he said.

And over the past decade or so, he added that his perspective on the sport has somewhat shifted since the days when he competed at the junior level in his late teenage years before eventually competing at the amateur level at the ages of 19 and 20.

“My relationship with the game was different back then,” he said. “Now that I’m a teaching professional, I can help spread enjoyment with the game and coach others; I see it from a slightly different perspective."

“But I think it’s just that chase to be a little bit better, the independence of the sport, the goal-setting part – just how it’s you versus the golf course and also you versus yourself at the same time,” he elaborated.

“There’s a lot of philosophical reasons I could probably get into. But I think at the end of the day, what I try to express to my students and to other colleagues is that golf is for everyone; there’s a number of different ways to find enjoyment with the game."

Although he moved away years ago, Bach to this day remains connected to his roots in the area, where his golf career originally got started not only at Forest Heights, but also other courses including Coyote Creek where he for a spell worked under former head pro Dean McBride.

“It’s amazing to see just the talent and the achievements that are coming out of that general area,” he said, citing as an example his friend Dylan Webster who earlier this year played in the Brier Cup.  

Provided things go according to plan, Bach said he was looking at returning for about a week after the May long weekend.

“I hope to make the rounds and just visit with a bunch of old colleagues and buddies," he said.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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