The number of players coming out of the junior golf programs in Central Alberta is improving every year.
Younger players are continually listed among the best in the province and several have received national recognition.
One of those programs is at the Red Deer Golf and Country Club and associate professional and junior coordinator Kirk Evans feels it will only get better.
Evans, along with head pro Dean Manz, came to the RDGCC this season from Regina.
“One of the things when we came was that we heard the junior program needed a little work and we wanted to be more active in that area,” said Evans. “We held a Monday mixer and really didn’t know what to expect but 25 kids showed up. We’ve held about seven (mixers) so far with 15 to 25 kids out each time.”
Over the past several years there’s just not the number of girls coming out of the area that most coaches would like. In fact even now there are no competitive girls between the ages of 15-18 at the RDGCC.
Evans believes that will change.
“As of now about a third of the kids out are girls,” he said. “The toughest part is that when a girl comes out and is the only one with 10 boys they’re a bit intimidated. But we have a number of girls and once they’re here they make news friends and are more comfortable. The other day we had a six-year-old girl out and she fit right in. In fact she putted better than a lot of the 10-12 year-old boys.”
Evans was born and raised in Regina and played junior at the Royal Regina. However, from the age of 16-21 he dropped the game.
“I played competitive soccer, but when my body didn’t allow me to go on I picked up golf again.
He turned professional at age 25 and attended Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton in the golf program.
The 31-year-old has always been interested in working with younger kids and feels the Country Club program is a good fit.
“We have a great facility with the range and the practice hole, which was the old No. 8 hole. It’s about 80 yards long with bunkers and it’s perfect to work on your short game. We see a lot of the juniors using it, even more than the adults.
“As well our junior program is affordable and we have used junior clubs if kids don’t have any.”
Evans believes the younger the kid is when he or she takes up the game the better.
“Once they learn the game it’s easier to pick up again if they do get away from it for a time.”
What Evans would like to see is an indoor facility which could be used during the winter.
“Calgary and Edmonton has indoor facilities as we had in Regina. We heard there is some interest in that in Red Deer, which we need.”
Still there’s five to 10 highly competitive kids representing the Country Club in most competitions.
“We have a lot of good kids at the higher level such as Carter Graf and Mark James to name a couple,” said Evans. “I believe the skill level of these kids is even higher than what we saw in Regina. These are the guys to look up to and inspire the younger kids to stick with it. It shows with a little work where they can get to.
“That’s what we need from the girls. Based on what we have if the younger girls stick with it they will get there. Then the younger girls coming in have someone to look up to.”
Evans also feels there are so many more opportunities for the younger golfer today than in the past.
“There’s a lot of scholarships and a lot of good programs like the golf team at Red Deer College,” he said.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org