Three Top Local Pro's Talk Junior Golf..By John Torsiello.
John Torsiello of LitchfieldCountySports.com asked three leading proponents of junior golf in the County, Glenn Carlson, head professional at Torrington Country Club, Scott Mattiello, general manager and head professional at Green Woods Country Club in Winsted, and Bob Sparks, head professional at Harwinton’s Fairview Farm Golf Course, about their views on today’s state of junior golf. Here are their responses.
How do you feel about the future of junior golf?
Mattiello: Junior golf has exploded over the last few years, it's tremendous and promising to see so many kids interested in the game.
Sparks: I think the future is very promising with the programs being rolled out by the PGA. The new PGA Junior League is a great program and acts a developmental program to prepare the kids to play golf in a fun, non-intimidating team concept. The game is hard, and just as we have done for adults we need to make it fun and enjoyable without huge time and money constraints. We hosted a Connecticut PGA Junior Golf Tour event, which we do every year, and we had 153 kids play and still had 20 on the wait list!
Carlson: I have seen a tremendous drop in participation by juniors. Everything is scheduled for kids today and two parents working makes it difficult to get to the club when the younger kids want to come. We have added a bunch of new junior members to our roster but they have for the most part not taken advantage of the opportunity.
What do you think we need do to encourage kids to take up the game?
Mattiello: As PGA Professionals we need to continually promote the FUN of the game. When one’s competitive spirit is awoken, there is no telling the potential. Golf is a game meant to be played not won. Junior memberships are a great and affordable way for parents to get their kids playing more golf. Plus it’s the safest environment for young adults to grow up in. The game teaches many life lessons that can be used in everyday situations. I’m am seeing more kids playing the game than before, however, the interest in general has really just begun. Our club has seen an increase and my junior programs have helped to increase participation.
Sparks: Make it fun! Again the pressure of tournament golf and having to post a score, whether it’s to play in high school or to play in an event, can be overwhelming. We need to make it so the kids have attainable goals and see the future as a game they can play for their entire lives. Golf offers so much more than posting a score and being competitive. Of course this is also a great opportunity if it lends itself to that, but it teaches life skills, and can be very helpful in business as an adult.
Carlson: At TCC we are doing a good job working with the Northwest Hills Credit Union running the Charlie Ormsby clinics in which 1,000 kids have gone through a week long introduction to the sport of golf at no charge. This is a great start but we need to get more kids involved, I think a school program introducing kids may help. I know A.J. Ruwet at Litchfield Country Club and Bob Sparks at Fairview Farms, along with Scott Mattiello at Green Woods, are all doing good work with their junior programs in this area. But are we all doing enough? That's a tough question because growing the sport is a tough task but we are working towards that goal. Junior memberships are a great way to get their kids playing more golf. The kids are left in a safe environment, exposed to good people that represent all walks of life. There are professionals that build relationships and help kids along the way to building bonds that last a lifetime. I personally have some great friends that started by a meeting on the lesson tee years ago. I think a junior membership allows a child consistent place to learn and develop the skills needed to play golf and develop personal relationships that last a lifetime.
How about girls? How can we get more of them playing?
Mattiello: Girls are not an issue, I'm seeing more young ladies take up the game than before. Once the girls get experience, they can play with anyone and the fear that might have existed prior subsides and self-confidence is born. With so many ladies college golf scholarships going unused each year, it’s surprising more parents haven't picked up on it. It comes down to the parents exposing their children to what’s out there.
Carlson: We need to get more U.S. role models on the LPGA Tour for our young girls to look up to. I also think we need to create a more social atmosphere for young junior girls to be a part of. As youngsters, the boys like to play with the boys and the girls like playing with the girls, but as we get older that shifts and we all play together. We need to try and get boys and girls to blend a little more at younger ages to provide more playing opportunities.