Seventeen years is a long time for anything and that’s the number of candles burning brightly on the cake for the popular MacLennan Ross Sun Junior golf tour.
Executive director Dunc Mills said there were hopes it would last quite some time because there was quite a boom in junior golf when the tour was launched and Tiger was all over the media attracting new golfers every day it seemed.
“Did I think it was going to go 17 years? No probably not but here we are and we’re delighted to be here,” pointed out Mills adding that Mike Weir and Lori Kane on this side of the border also had an impact.
Mills swells with pride when he thinks of the hundreds of young players who have enjoyed the competition on the tour, covering the many kilometres from course to course for each event and growing as young people with each round.
“They learned a little bit about life skills and honesty and integrity and accountability and all the things that maybe helped make them better people,” he said, pointing out that many of those young players growing up and remain in the golf business in other facets.
One of those young players looking to stay in it for quite some time is Red Deer’s Clare McMahon.
It’s the second year on the tour for the 13-year-old with aspirations of making playing this game for a living. She says she wanted to find out if she liked the competition golf brings after enjoying the battles in basketball, volleyball and competitive dance.
“I thought that golf might be a bit different but it wasn’t and I really liked it and it was a good experience for me.”
Clare plays a lot of team sports and with golf being more of an individual effort it’s taught her to trust in her decision making skills and then be able to look at herself in the mirror afterwards.
“I can’t just turn to somebody else, I have to focus on what I’m doing,” she said.
The youngest player in each of the girls’ events she entered Clare said she wasn’t necessarily the best player but she always had fun and didn’t take it too seriously.
“I think as I get more involved in golf I have to keep that easy going attitude,” she explained. “It’s OK if you don’t win every tournament, if you don’t play well on one hole you can always recover the next time.”
There is also the opportunity to learn the rules of the game at a young age and some hard lessons as a few players over the years have been disqualified from a tournament, said Mills.
“They just broke a rule that the penalty was pretty severe and they learn to deal with that.”
Les Swelin of the Sundre area saw his son Ryan play on the tour about a decade ago and he claims it was the best decision they could have made as it led to a scholarship to an American school.
“He just came back a different kid. He was way more organized, he knew how to look after himself. It was very good experience for him,” said Swelin.
The message from Mills to parents of any young golfer is a simple one and he hopes it can be repeated for another 17 years.
“Come out and watch the kids play, to encourage them, be there when they win and share the excitement but to help them with the disappointment because let’s be honest, there is only one winner at each event.”