The Mclennan Ross Junior Golf tour in Alberta has teed up year 23 for another summer of golf and writing new personal stories for young golfers. Over the years those stories may be slightly different but there is always a similar thread running through them.
It starts with getting golf courses scattered around the province to get on board and host an event. In the early years, during the Canadian version of the junior golf boom, courses were very interested in being a part of something new, said Dunc Mills, the tour’s executive director and driving force.
“The interest in junior golf exploded so we had courses coming to us, how do we get involved with this tour?”, he said. “We still get that a little bit to this day. I still get two or three phone calls from courses that would like to become involved.”
Courses get on board for a variety of reasons, maybe looking to showcase their venue and generate some publicity to attract more golfers. Mills says there is a general understanding of how this tour can help grow the game of golf as well, so there is a return on this investment from the various clubs.
“The big picture on this is not next week or tomorrow, it’s ten years, 20 years from now when these youngsters are out of junior golf and they’re in the adult world and they planted the seed of playing junior golf,” he said. “They become members and they join clubs and they buy equipment and they support the industry.”
The latest version of talented youngsters was on display at the Wolf Creek Golf Resort (an original tour member) in May.
Players like Red Deer’s Cole Bergheim are examples of how the game takes root and allows players to grow at their own speed, with the support of their family. So, who helped him during those early years?
“Oh, definitely my grandpa. He brought me to all the tournaments and spent a lot of money on me to do well at these tournaments,” he said.
Bergheim says his grandpa never did any coaching, he was there for the support. He confesses he really learned the game by watching golf-a lot of golf, on TV. He now has a coach guiding him on the finer points of the game, but he credits the tour for fleshing out his skill and knowledge level.
“All the rules officials have taught me a lot. I used to know nothing and then after this tour I know a lot of rules and a lot of the people are really fun to play with here,” he said.
Learning the rules of the game is an integral component of the tour. Sometimes those rules will provide a life lesson and Mills recalls a time during the tour championship when several of the top girls were disqualified after not reading the local rule sheet and playing from the wrong tee.
“That story didn’t have a happy ending,” he said.
There is a fine line between having a serious component of a tournament and of course a fun side so players aren’t discouraged. Mills has always said you can do both and the rules surrounding an event make it happen. No ear-buds so players can listen to music and no phones on the course so you can’t text your buddies to see how they are doing. You have to hold a conversation with your fellow competitors, said Mills.
“There’s skills that they will learn playing tournament golf that will help them not only in golf but in life.”
Being competitive, honest, accountable for your actions, integrity-all hallmarks of a successful person whether it’s in a sport or business. This is what these youngsters can glean from playing on the McLennan Ross Junior Golf Tour.
The reality of this scenario however is not all these kids have what it takes to make it to the highest level of golf, just like other sports.
“These kids are going to become club pros, maybe business owners, teachers, lawyers, doctors, home-makers but hopefully they will still be golfers,” said Mills. That is a story worth telling.
*23rd year of operation, hosting over 500 tournaments
*$80,000-the value of scholarships donated to the Alberta Golf Scholarship Foundation
*Red Tail Landing at Nisku is the newest course to join the tour
*Acushnet Canada Ltd. Is the newest corporate sponsor of the tour