With Canadian golfers like Graham deLaet and Brooke Henderson performing on the world stage at the Summer Olympics in Rio, some West Shore youngsters are eagerly looking to follow in their footsteps.
Junior golf programs at both Bear Mountain Resort and Olympic View Golf Club have been popular this year, with six to 10 kids on average attending Bear Mountain’s weekly junior clinics and sold out day camps at Olympic View.
While instruction is important, said Bear Mountain assistant golf pro and junior co-ordinator Jaegan Patron, he places more focus on fun, especially as the kids are just being introduced to the sport.
“We always try to make it fun for them. Obviously if they are learning too much stuff right off the bat, they tend to get discouraged if they don’t pick it up right away,” he said.
Patron acknowledges that the competition for children’s attention can be fierce, with numerous other sporting exploits vying for their time. But he believes golf is a great way for kids to develop friendships. “You just never know who you’re going to run into out on the course,” he said.
Participants at Bear Mountain’s clinics are given a chance to practice on the putting green, at the driving range, and even on the course over the course of the 90-minute sessions, with Patron providing instruction across all facets of the game.
“For some of them, the range isn’t really as interesting … but once you get them out on the course and they actually see the way the game is played … it tends to get them a little bit more excited,” he said.
Matt Cella, the director of instruction at Olympic View and the coach of the B.C. junior team, said participation in golf among children and youth is on the rise.
“There’s certainly a lot of kids getting into golf … we’ve actually had to go and allow the kids in from the wait list and [hired] extra instructors to teach our [summer camps],” he said.
Cella added that experience with other sports puts a junior golfer on the right track for early success.
“We find that any kids – even the young kids like the four, five or six year olds – if they’ve done anything like gymnastics or dance or anything that takes a lot of co-ordination, they pick up golf really quickly,” he said.
Ball position, grip and stance are the most important skills for juniors to learn, Patron said, but he also stresses golf etiquette in his teaching.
“There’s a few people who don’t like seeing [kids] on the golf course because they don’t really know the [etiquette] and they’re running on the green and stuff like that, so we always try to introduce them right way,” he explained.
The learning curve is a steep one, and Patron said his reward comes in the form of seeing the kids improve from one week to the next.
“When the light bulb goes off in their head, it’s definitely rewarding as an instructor.”
To find out more about the clubs’ junior golf programs, visit bearmountain.ca or golfbc.com/courses/olympic_view.