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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Junior interest so encouraging

THE past few years have seen golf in the UK remain stagnant in terms of participant growth. If anything, it has even pulled back from the previous years of unparalleled growth.

Paul Rawlinson
Paul Rawlinson

Despite those grim numbers for the larger game, one group, junior golfers, has grown significantly.

The biggest reason for the growth is, arguably, Tiger Woods; more specifically, junior golfers who want to be like Tiger.

Many golf fans would agree that with Tiger’s rather quick rise to prominence in the golf world, golf was introduced to who would become the golfers of the next generation.

Much has been made of Tiger’s appearance on the Mike Douglas Show as a two-year-old. Because of this, juniors are starting at a younger age.

When I joined Barrow GC in 1987 I did so at the youngest age possible at the time – 12, but now I see accomplished golfers of teen handicaps and below at that age.

Junior golf in the area is hopefully recovering to the heights of the early ‘90s when it would not be uncommon to see 50 local juniors turn up for every Open competition at Barrow, Furness, Dunnerholme and Ulverston, and long may it continue.

With good professionals in the area running junior programmes, the opportunities to get into the game at a young age are readily available and as well as possible careers in golf, the life skills and etiquette golf teaches are unrivalled.

Our junior section alone, under the guidance of Dave Barker, produced five PGA Professionals and the Senior Club Designer for Calloway. Not bad when you think about it, as well as several others who are doing really well having taken their careers away from golf.

So what age is the best to start the game? That’s a question I get asked frequently, and I think the answer is the earlier the better. Once the fundamentals are in place then allow the junior to go and enjoy themselves.

Set them targets rather than strict ‘you must do this’ coaching. Enrol them in a junior programme with others of a similar age and standard and let them develop amongst friends and they will soon be driving the ball past you!

Our summer programme of junior coaching at the Fairway Hotel Driving Range is starting this month, with enrolment taking place at the moment.

The academy runs on Saturday afternoons at a subsidised rate of £5 (includes range balls to use) per session. There are no age restrictions and all equipment is provided.

If you would like further information, please feel free to email me at paul.rawlinson@gmail.com or call me on 07968 967148.

lFor anyone who read last week’s column and is wondering how the competition in Egypt went, my team came second with scores of -16, -14 and -25 over the three days. The structured practice must have paid off. So well done to Jonathan, Dave and Ian, who played well all week.

PAUL RAWLINSON

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