Walking up the fairway on the 18th hole Wednesday, Malik Dao thought he recognized a familiar figure watching from the sidelines, but he couldn’t be sure.
He quickly thought it might be his mother Annie Dao, but she didn’t accompany him to the Canada Summer Games, instead staying home in Notre Dame de l’Ile Perrot, Que., with her husband Duc Dao.
After finishing his round at Legends on the Niagara, the 17-year-old made his way to a large group of fans and media, where he finally realized what was going on.
“I kind of saw my mom’s hair and I was kind of looking but then I had some golf to play. I was kind of looking in but I wasn’t sure but then I saw her,” Malik Dao said. “It was great. They have given good support every day.”
Duc and Annie Dao were able to surprise their son thanks to Canadian Tire’s Friends and Family initiative which helped offset the cost for the family to travel to Ontario. The program sees participants recognize family members who have supported them on their journey.
“It’s a nice experience and a nice surprise for us to do,” Annie Dao said. “We are really excited to be here.”
Annie Dao admitted it was difficult for her and her husband not to be at the Games.
“We will follow him for the practice rounds and everything, but sometimes we have to let go and have faith the support from the team will be there,” she said.
Golfing is a huge part of the Dao family — Malik’s sister Celeste Dao won the individual female division for Team Québec at the 2017 Games before moving on to play collegiate golf at the University of Georgia.
The siblings tried golf — along with just about every other sport — growing up before settling on the links as their primary sport.
They also trained together and at the height of the pandemic, without a tournament to play in, the two competed against each other in a variety of competitions.
“Sometimes she gives me a bit of her experience and she gives it to me straight and I also get to compete with her. She’s one of the best in Canada so it’s good practice for me,” Malik Dao said.
He appreciates having such a talented training partner.
“Golf is really a lonely sport,” he said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to keep your intensity each and every practice when you are training so it helps with having a goal and trying to achieve it.”
Malik, a recent University of Eastern Kentucky commit who is also a member of the Team Canada National Junior Squad, got off to a rough start Wednesday firing a 79. Three golfers tied atop the leaderboard at 70 while Michael Martel of Niagara Falls shot a 74 to finish in a tie for eighth.
With a win, Malik and Celeste would become the first ever brother-sister golf duo to have won their respective divisions at the Canada Summer Games.
When Québec won gold in golf at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, they became the first team outside of British Columbia to win since golf was introduced to the Games for the first time in 2009.
Golf continues Thursday and Friday with the final round Saturday morning.