MONTREAL - Just one week after his monster NHL debut, Ryan Poehling checked a very special item off his bucket list.
The 20-year-old centerman packed his bags and headed to Augusta, GA to take in third round action at the Masters along with his father, Tim, and brothers Nick, Jack and Luke.
And the experience was everything Poehling hoped it would be and so much more.
"It's cool to walk the course. TV doesn't really do it justice. You see how much elevation change there is. You can't even fathom how they putt. They touch it and it goes 10 feet. It's one of those deals that you can't understand unless you go," said the St. Cloud State University product of his first trip to Augusta National. "We sat on the eighth hole. It was probably my favorite part. It's a par 5, and we watched the guys hit in. Even if they missed the green, they were still chipping it to within four or five feet every time. The consistency is crazy."
Seeing Tiger Woods tee off on 18 on Saturday was also a moment Poehling won't soon forget. Likewise, a unique encounter with former Masters and Open Championship winner, Zach Johnson, will always stick with him.
"My dad's brother, Ben, was a Division I golfer at Drake University. His roommate was Zach. We were following Zach on 18 and when we were sitting by the ropes, he just walked up to us and noticed my dad. He said 'Is that Tim Poehling?' They had a conversation. Then, Zach said that he actually tracks me and my brothers as well. He knew I had a great first game," mentioned Poehling. "That was a cool moment. Those guys are big time, so it was great."
The Canadiens' No. 25 isn't only passionate about watching the best and brightest on the PGA Tour, he enjoys hitting the links back home in the Midwest during the offseason, too.
Every Thursday, Poehling plays in a Men's League at Legends Golf Club in Prior Lake, MN, where his father is a member. Tim is also a member at renowned Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, MN as well, which was the site of the 2016 Ryder Cup.
Poehling has been golfing since he was "seven or eight years old" and is essentially self-taught.
"It was more so natural, but I went to a few lessons and I just kind of picked it up. I like more so playing than hitting the range or anything. Growing up, there's a course like a two-minute walk from my house. We'd sign up for some lessons there. I still learned a lot. I think that's kind of how I first loved the game," explained Poehling. "My family has always been big golf advocates. The best golfer in our family is my dad. He's pretty solid. My mom also plays in a Women's League. But, if I'm playing hot or one of my brothers is playing well, I think we can beat him."
With respect to his game, Poehling estimates his handicap at a four last season. He's still working on his consistency, though.
"I can go shoot even par or I can go shoot 14-over, so I'm just all over the place," cracked Poehling, whose lowest round was a three-under 69 last summer at Legends. "But, I can hit the ball far. I'd say 290 to 300 yards off the tee. Sometimes, you don't know where it's going and it can get away from me. A few of those shots can ruin your score. Other than that, I'm pretty solid."
The Canadiens' hopeful believes there are some real hockey-related benefits that come with being an avid golfer.
"You're using a lot of muscles and it's all about timing. I wish it would just correlate to my slap shot. I can't take a slap shot for my life, but I can really hit a golf ball," joked Poehling. "It honestly sometimes teaches you how to handle pressure, though, when you've got a big putt and you're a little nervous in front of your buddies. It teaches you to be collected in certain times. That's why I enjoy it. It gives you a little rush sometimes."
It's clear that Poehling appreciates everything the sport has to offer.
"It's timeless. You get on the course and everything feels different. You can't put words to it," concluded Poehling. "It's always going to be there for you, whether you're 15 years old or 45 years old. You can always go out and play golf with your friends. To have that in your life, to have that stability, it's always a special thing."
What is your favorite course you ever played?
RP: I played one in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. It was probably one of the best courses. Then, there's Whistling Straits out in Kohler, WI. We went there because my brothers were playing in Green Bay. We dropped them off, but we stopped there to golf. That was just super fun.
Who is your favorite golfer?
RP: I love Adam Scott. When I was growing up, he was in his prime. I love his style. He has sweet sponsorships. He's always wearing sweaters, which is cool.
Which courses would you like to play in the future?
RP: Augusta, obviously. There's also Spyglass and Pebble Beach in California, too.
After travelling to the Masters, which other major championship would you like to attend next?
RP: The Open Championship.