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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Golf - Giving Back to the Next Generation

Golf’s Future

Giving back to the next generation

Story by Heidi Chackel and Eric Dutt

Without new players coming into the game, golf courses don’t have future consumers. So, what’s the answer to attracting young people to the game, creating good junior players who have a shot of getting a college scholarship, and keeping these young players playing golf after they reach their adult years or finish college?

Part of the solution is getting back to the way it was years ago where golf courses made their facilities available to young people who wanted to learn the game, and at times at no charge. Get in front of kids eight to 12 years of age, from all walks of life, and get a golf club in these young people’s hands. Work with the YMCA, Boys N Girls Club, etc., to put golf programs in place. Expose young people to the game, and then pass them along to the golf courses for additional and more refined instruction, getting them ready for competition.

Competition creates good-to-very-good players who are focused on college golf programs and beyond. The more competitive events a junior can play, the better player they will become, as they learn how to play under pressure.

These efforts should improve the junior golf landscape, but we need all golf courses to get involved and parents of those young people who get interested in the game must make the commitment as well in getting their children to the course, to tournaments and keep their children playing. It will pay off for everyone in the long run.

 

SIDEBAR

-Ryan Chackel, Owner, Golfing Oregon Magazine

Given that we publish five golf publications in Las Vegas, Reno/Tahoe, Southern California, Palm Springs and Oregon, we work with a lot of golf courses in the western United States. These courses range from municipals to standard daily fee and high-end resort courses to the private clubs. Across the board I would say things are better today for them than five years ago. The hard part is to assess what that really means. The high was so high and the low was so low, we’re now left in the middle and now have a “new good”. But it appears that the growth our clients are having is sustainable and more dependable in terms of operations, budgets and expectations. Golf has its hurdles for sure, but they seem to be manageable. A collapse of the sport like some people believe doesn’t appear likely. 

The days of course managers charging whatever they wanted for a round of golf are gone, which is not a bad thing as the game was becoming too expensive for a lot of people. The challenge now is to attract new players to the game and to make it more appealing to the younger generation.

I’m of the opinion that this is possible. I have three kids ages 14, 12 and 4. The athletic opportunities available to them today are far beyond what I had at the same age. In the last 15 to 20 years we have seen the emergence and outright birth of so many sports that take their attention away from learning about golf: some of those sports competing with golf include wake boarding and wake surfing, snowboarding, cross fit to some degree, action sports in general, year round AAU leagues for basketball, football and baseball instead of seasonal offerings.

But most of these sports can’t be played for a lifetime and I think kids can learn that as they get older. For example, my oldest son, Colby, was competing in wakeboarding for many years until the falls began to take their toll on him. He has since reassessed his athletic priorities and is committed to basketball and recently asked to play more golf (where golf used to be a non-starter for him).

SIDEBAR

Q & A with Vince Domenzain, general manager and director of golf at Centennial Golf Club in Medford

Q: Is there anything in particular you have set up at Centennial Golf Club to support local junior golfers? Or golfers throughout the state? 

A: We host the first major for the OGA Junior Tour every year in early June. It’s a two-day event and always has a good field. We also have hosted the AJGA Junior at Centennial for the past six years and this year the official title is Bishops Gate Academy Junior at Centennial. We have also hosted the Parks and Rec junior lessons on the weekends throughout the year. In June, July and August we also conduct three Junior Golf Camps that have about 20 to 30 participants. One other Junior Clinic that I am involved in is an after school program through the Parks and Rec called Sticks for Kids. It is a free program that has the kids come out for five lessons. It’s a great introduction to golf for the kids.

Q: Do you have thoughts on how to promote golf to the next generation?

A: With all of the concern with the injuries to kids in the contact sports, I think we will be seeing some good athletes coming into the game from those sports. That being said, the PGA, USGA, First Tee Program, Play Golf America and LPGA are very proactive with the promotion of golf to the kids and there are plenty of opportunities for the kids to be involved in the game. The other large push for golf is to make golf more of a family activity, which will help with the promotion for junior golf.       

Q: What kind of opportunities are available for junior golfers at your sister property, Quail Point Golf Course?

A: Quail Point has several of junior friendly activities. We have the PGA Family Friendly Junior Tees on the course that allows the course to be played at 1,000 yards or 2,000 yards. We also have a daily special with “Kids Play Free” when they are accompanied by a paid adult fee. The other junior friendly product we have is the Quail Point Putting Course. The course is very junior friendly and is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family.  

 

SIDEBAR

This list is not comprehensive and does not consist of every junior golf opportunity available throughout Southern Oregon.

More to Check Out 

Rogue Valley Country Club

2660 Hillcrest Rd., Medford

541-772-5965

www.rvcc.com

Rogue Valley Country Club has an amazing junior program for the children and grandchildren of its members. The program offers instruction, practice and play activities for beginners, intermediate players and the more advanced players. Creating additional opportunities to involve these juniors in the club’s golf facility is of utmost importance to the staff at Rogue Valley Country Club, with the goals of making golf enjoyable, to increase abilities and to contribute to the personal development of each junior player.

 

Eagle Point Golf Club

100 Eagle Point Dr., Eagle Point

541-826-8225

www.eaglepointgolf.com

Thoughts from General Manager and Head Golf Professional Patrick Oropallo

“I feel like it is my responsibility as a PGA Member and golf professional to grow the game of golf. As a young person, I had several PGA Pros who helped me learn the game and changed the course of my life, and I try to promote that same giving with our team here. It is a very big task. We try to do this in many different dynamic ways.

We have a junior camp with several different sessions during the summer. It is not your typical golf instruction. But is etiquette driven – honesty, respect, course care—all those little things that golf teaches. We have fun doing it, though, and finish off with different contests and an ice cream social. We want to create that spark of interest.

We are also very committed to the high school programs here, who have lost their funding. The entire community of Eagle Point rallied and we now support the Eagle Point Club Team. A girls team has been added with varsity and junior varsity, and both the men’s and women’s teams are thriving. We also run an event called the Robert Trent Jones Jr. Legacy Golf Tournament where the owners of Eagle Point donate the golf course and carts for the day. Through this fundraising tournament we raise enough funds for the boys and girls teams. We are now trying to get even more involved at the middle school level, again creating that spark. This includes free clinics for those just learning the game.

Really we support any kid who walks in the door. It can be the smallest thing, just taking five minutes to develop a rapport with someone, make them feel warm and welcome. That is what we are about, that is the culture we create here at Eagle Point. We are very passionate. It takes an entire team, from my staff to the owners to the community surrounding us—to make it happen.”

Running Y Ranch

550 Running Y Rd., Klamath Falls

541-850-5580

www.runningy.com

The Putting Course at Running Y Ranch is a favorite amongst juniors, featuring 18 holes with water hazards, sand traps and sneaky breaks. Junior golf clinics are available in the summer, with this summer’s proposed schedule including one in June and one in July. Also during the summer months, juniors play for free with a paying adult after 2 p.m.

“We are very proactive in the junior golf scene locally—it is our future in the game. It is my future,” says Head Golf Professional Jaren Mack. “We support all of the high schools in our area, allowing them free use of our practice facilities and course during their season. We hand out free putting course coupons for all ages throughout the school for good behavior and stuff like that. And we will be adding even more new junior programs this summer as well.”

Bear Creek Golf Course

2355 S. Pacific Hwy., Medford

541-773-1822

www.golfbearcreek.com

Bear Creek Golf Course encourages junior play throughout the year and especially in the summer months. A variety of summer camps are available for every level of player. In addition, juniors can also participate in skills challenges, tournaments and parent/junior events and the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Club.

Their future Stars Junior Golf Program targets determined junior golfers who have a passion for the game of golf or are willing to put forth extra effort in the summer to improve their game. The program starts the weekend the week after school ends and runs through mid-August. The program includes instruction, course access, USGA handicap index, etiquette and rules classes, prizes and more.

Grants Pass Country Club

230 Espey Rd. Grants Pass

541-476-0849

www.gpgolfclub.com

The GPGC Summer Junior Golf Program is open to children and grandchildren of club members, with additional openings for non-member juniors up to the capacity of 125 total juniors. Through this program juniors receive an introduction to the game of golf that includes social skills, etiquette and care for the course, and fundamentals in all areas of the game while under the care and direction of the PGA Professionals on staff. 

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