Few sport organizations, if any, will look to build on their successes from the summer of 2020 as they seek to map out some sort of pathway over the course of the next few months.
The Northeastern Junior Golf Tour is a glaring exception to the rule.
Launched for the first time last May as golf bucked the trend of sporting activities forced to the sidelines by virtue of the global pandemic, the NJGT has tweaked their formula, only slightly, thankful for the recent decision of the provincial government to reopen the courses, with the first stop on the tour slated for June 6th and 7th in Parry Sound.
“One thing that we did learn was not to schedule events too close to one another,” noted organizer Andre Lemieux, who passed along the schedule that includes a total of six stops between early June and the Tour Championship on September 1st at Huron Pines.
“The quick turnover makes it difficult for the kids to get a chance to get on the course and do a couple of practice rounds prior to the next tournament. We also learned that we needed to review the schedules of other competing tours.”
With a greater emphasis on growing the game in the Sudbury area - four of the six tournaments on the tour this year are taking place in the nickel city - folks involved with the NJGT are fully cognizant of the fact that widespread growth of the sport with young boys and girls is going to require a way to attract those who are not likely to inhabit the winner’s circle week after week.
“We want to grow the game from the bottom up,” said Lemieux. “We need the kids to try their first competition - hopefully they enjoy it. Some may pursue scholarships, but for many others, they may just learn a lifelong game.”
It is this second group that has generated some discussion looking to incorporate perhaps a Linkster Series, the CJGA (Canadian Junior Golf Association) initiative that introduces golf to youth in a far less competitive setting. “It’s a tour for kids who may not be up on all of the rules, kids who may need a hand with club selection,” explained Lemieux.
“They’re allowed to have a caddie with them for a full nine hole tournament.”
It’s a philosophy that Lemieux is thankful to share with the lead official on the tour, Jim Ewin from Parry Sound. “For the younger kids, it’s not about penalizing them, more about helping them learn and have fun.”
In fact, when it came to gathering volunteers last summer, Lemieux was more than a little pleased with the overwhelming response that they received. “Everybody just seemed very appreciative of the fact that we were able to create some head to head competition for these kids,” he said.
“I do think that everybody was excited to just be out of the house, playing a sport.”
While there is little doubt that Sudbury has enjoyed a resurgence of top-end junior golfers making their way to the States in recent years, Lemieux knows that greater support for that next wave can only make things better.
“We are perfectly located in an area where we can promote junior golfers and young golfers to the game,” he said. “For a number of years, as you wanted to grow in golf, you were travelling down to southern Ontario, competing every other weekend.”
Turns out that he is not alone in this endeavour. Earlier this week, the Sudbury Landlord Association stepped up to offer some assistance to interested participants to the golf tour, as Lemieux mapped out details with SLA representative Sherry Jordan. “She was extremely excited about providing an opportunity to sponsor athletes by way of paying some of the registration fees,” he said.
“In exchange, the golfers might wear a shirt and hat with a logo. They would really like to help us grow the base, especially on the girls side.”
After enduring the bulk of the changes required in the name of COVID compliance, the NJGT sees itself as being very well positioned heading into year two. “As a small tour, we have the flexibility to adjust and make changes on the fly,” said Lemieux. “The most important thing is that everyone remains safe during the pandemic.”
“We’re hoping that we are starting to turn the corner, that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. But I think that we’re nimble enough to change and adjust and still provide a good offering.”
That’s something that not every sports group can claim, these days.NJGT Schedule - 2021
June 6th & 7th - Parry Sound Golf & Country Club
June 19th & 20th - Timberwolf Golf Club
July 12th - Idylwylde Golf & Country Club
July 27th - Forest Ridge Golf & Country Club
August 13th - Lively Golf Club
September 1st - Huron Pines (Championship)
For further information on the Northeastern Junior Golf Tour, kindly contact Andre Lemieux either by phone (705-929-7705) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org