The future of junior golf on the Sunshine Coast is a bright one, thanks to strong junior golf program at the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club, which is growing in leaps and bounds.
More than 400 kids, aged four to 12, many of them getting their first taste of the golfing experience, took part in the Golf in Schools program from March through May. The program is run in partnership with Coast schools, and the students get three one-hour sessions of game instruction.
“We’re trying to make the game accessible and inclusive to all kids,” said assistant pro Bill McDonough. “It’s important to get kids involved as early as possible.”
From May to August, more than 60 kids took part in the club’s junior golf clinics.
McDonough said many of the kids who participated in the Golf in Schools program, also took part in the clinics.
“These kids have shown an interest and now they’re hooked,” he said. “I remember that was what it was like for me growing up. I played a few times, and all of sudden I was hooked. It changed my life and I hope that it can change the lives of some of these kids too.”
Head pro Jim Pringle said over the last five years of offering junior programs, the results are now really starting to pay off.
“This summer especially, you are seeing more and more kids from the Sunshine Coast seek out high level opportunities and competitions,” Pringle said. “You are seeing more junior members, more junior members winning and competing in events. That’s all a by-product of getting them interested in the game early on and helping to foster their growth and development.”
Pringle said the number of junior members at the SCG&CC is increasing every year.
“All of these new members have graduated from the junior golf programs,” he said.
“We often have had large numbers of junior golfers, but we haven’t always had a large number of those kids who are actively playing golf. There are days where we will have 15-year-old kids going out there with one of our senior members who is 89. These guys are out playing the same game and enjoying their time together and you see them a few weeks later and they’re socializing just like regular buddies. “They may be from different generations, but when they are here playing golf, they are all on the same playing field,” Pringle said.
And it’s not just about teaching young golfers how to play the game. Also important to the two pros is teaching them life lessons.
“There are a lot of core values in golf — things like honesty and integrity — things that are inherent to all sports to a certain degree, but no sport has the level of etiquette like golf does. For young kids who are out playing golf with adults, that is a different experience than playing with your peers on the soccer pitch, for example. I know that had a profound impact on my life on my ability to communicate with people of different generations and it’s made me a better person today.”
And the adult membership at the SCG&CC has embraced the junior programs as well.
The club has hosted the B.C. Junior Boys Championships twice, the latest in July, where more than 100 members stepped up to volunteer, ensuring a first-class experience for all the young golfers.
“For the kids who came here, they were so appreciative of the level of volunteers,” added Pringle. “When you come to an event and there are spotters and scorers and people really trying to create an event, that is so huge for young golfers.”
McDonough said the goal is to continue to build on the programs, getting more schools involved and more kids introduced to the game.
“The biggest thing in golf to solve some of the problems that we have in the golf industry is to get young people involved, to get a new age group involved in golf and make it more inclusive for everyone. Golf should be for everyone,” he said. “I would love to see us go from 400 to 500 kids next year. It’s really exciting to see. We have some kids who are in Grade 2 coming back for their third year of golf in this program. When you see these young kids out there on the course, that’s very rewarding.”