For Christmas this year Greg Moody’s 28-month-old grandson received a gift that may not have been on his Santa list. Yes, grandpa had a set of youth golf clubs cut down to fit the tot. “Kids are starting earlier and earlier,” says Moody, who has been active as a British Columbia Golf Men’s Zone 4 director and volunteer for more than two decades, and for the past five years has run its Junior programs.
In 2020 Moody’s Zone-4 Junior program will mount 10 tournaments at a rota that includes four of Canada’s top-100 ranked courses. As in past years, each of these will be open to up to 60 participants, paying a fee of just $30 each.
The Junior tour is geared to three age groups, 17-18, 15-16 and 12-14, says Moody. Generally, all must have a handicap of 12 or lower, though exceptions are sometimes made to fill a field. (Zone 3 and 4 Women combine to offer a similar program for girls, with five tournaments annually.)
Several recent graduates of the tour are among Canada’s most prominent amateur and professional golfers, a list that includes Adam Svensson (playing this year on the Korn Ferry Tour), Eugene Wong (PGA Tour China), Brycen Ko (2019 BC Junior champion), brothers Christian (2017 BC Junior champion) and Ilirian (2018 BC Junior champion) Zalli, and brothers Chris (Mackenzie Tour) and Michael (Simon Fraser University golf team) Crisologo. Several current players are expected to follow similar paths, including 2019 standout Jace Minni, who recently relocated to Victoria to train with Golf Canada’s national junior squad.
For younger girls and boys, aged 5 to 12, Men’s Zone 4 helps support events run by the Harry White Junior Linkster Golf Society. Zone 4 Director Bruce Main is a director as well of that group, which in 2020 will run nine events for up to 40 players each at area pitch and putt courses. “With the support of Optimist clubs and a private benefactor, we’re able to do this at no charge, and with a free lunch too,” says Main. The group is currently developing a scholarship program to provide ongoing support to graduates.
There are myriad additional tours and programs in Metro Vancouver, including First Tee and the Inner City Golf program run out of McCleery Golf Course by Muncie Booth (604-257-8191). Both provide low- or no-cost opportunities for young golfers. The Canadian Junior Golf Association runs tournaments for ages 4 to 14 and 12 to 18. Junior tours of interest primarily to more advanced players include Future Links, operated by Golf Canada, and the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour, run by CPGA professionals.
Meanwhile, golf academies operating out of local driving ranges offer a multitude of private and low-cost group lessons and camps, and several private clubs continue to offer reduced-cost memberships to promising golfers.
As well, 2020 is a BC Summer Games year; Zone 4 will be holding a qualifier on April 19 at Squamish Golf and Curling Club.
For parents of young golfers, the existence of such programs and opportunities should help assuage fears that golf can be an expensive sport. Recent surveys by the U.S. National Golf Foundation (2018) and British Columbia Golf (2016) suggest that after a decade and a half of slow decline, golf participation rates have reversed toward a mildly positive trend, but participation continues to lag among boys and girls. “We’re working to keep our game relevant and accessible for kids in Metro Vancouver,” says Moody.
- Jim Sutherland