Junior golfers develop life skills on tour

Picking up his first golf clubs at three-years-old, Sam Hamelin has his sights set on one day playing on the Canadian tour. For now, the 15-year-old Stettler resident will tee-off on the McLennan Ross Junior Golf Tour. Last year, Hamelin won two tour events at the Whitecourt Golf and Country Club and the Blackhawk Golf Club in Spruce Grove. At Whitecourt he shot a 78 and at Blackhawk he shot a 71.

Picking up his first golf clubs at three-years-old, Sam Hamelin has his sights set on one day playing on the Canadian tour.

For now, the 15-year-old Stettler resident will tee-off on the McLennan Ross Junior Golf Tour. Last year, Hamelin won two tour events at the Whitecourt Golf and Country Club and the Blackhawk Golf Club in Spruce Grove. At Whitecourt he shot a 78 and at Blackhawk he shot a 71.

“My friends and I, when we were five and six, we just loved to golf,” said Hamelin.

“It’s getting pretty competitive for me now.

“The competitive side of me keeps me going. I love traveling around Alberta and trying all these new courses. It’s so much fun to get into these big fields and compete.”

Hamelin was one of a handful of junior golfers at the tour’s kickoff event held at the Wolf Creek Golf Resort near Ponoka. Joining him was Kaitlyn Wingnean, a 13-year-old Edmonton native who is one of the stars with the tour.

Wingnean won five events on the tour last year. She has traveled all over Canada and down to California to compete in golf tournaments.

Now in its 21st season Duncan Mills, McLennan Ross Junior Golf Tour executive director, said the tour was first fuelled by the explosion of junior golf in the mid-1990s and the rise of golf stars like Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Lorie Kane.

“What’s not to like about an opportunity for young people to get a chance to learn to play golf,” said Mills. “Because of how we run this tour and who is involved, Alberta Golf has come to view this tour as part of their overall junior development program.

“These kids are getting better and younger than they were 20 years ago. We’ve had top junior golfers who have played on this tour. We expect to see some of these kids to be on the PGA and LPGA in the not too distant future.”

For Hamelin, this is his third season on the McLennan Ross Junior Golf Tour.

“It’s a great starting tour,” said Hamelin. “Without this tour I wouldn’t be where I am. It’s fun because of the tournaments and the courses you get to go to.”

Mills has been involved with Alberta Golf long before he got involved with the Mclennan Ross Junior Golf Tour. Despite the development of good golfers, Mills said that isn’t the tour’s only role

“I’d like to think we want this tour to be a platform for these kids to develop life skills like honesty, integrity and dedication,” said Mills. “It’s about developing skills that will help them more in their entire lives than just whether they end up on TV one of these days.”

The tour starts on May 28 in Drayton Valley. Tournaments held in Central Alberta include July 5 in Innisfail, July 6 in Lacombe, July 13 in Olds and July 18 in Ponoka. The tour championship is scheduled for Aug. 29 in Ponoka at the Wolf Creek Golf Resort.

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