The junior golf program at the Elmwood Golf Course is making national headlines these days. With 258 young golfers ages 4-16, the program is now the largest junior golf program in all of Canada.
Elmwood's head professional, Jeff Chambers, is at the helm of the blossoming program. Chambers turned pro in 2001 and became the head pro at Elmwood in 2007.
"That was our goal, we knew we were always close, even last year... My first year we grew it up to 150 kids from 64 the year before and then we went from 194 to 258," said Chambers, who was named the Canadian Professional Golfers Association of Saskatchewan's Promoter of the Year in 2006, 2008 and 2009. He also received the 2009 CPGA of Sask Head Professional Player of the Year.
The program is a part of Future Links, which is a program designed by Golf Canada.
"Through my experiences I just kind of came up with my own program that I know works and we have just grown the program to the biggest in Canada now."
"The Program has been around for many years, it is just that lately we have grown it remarkably," explained Chambers. "It has been more word of mouth than anything. It is starting to get national exposure now. I just did an article for Canada Golf Magazine showcasing what the Elmwood Golf Course is doing with junior golf. They are very excited so we are excited too."
The program normally runs during the month of May but it is now into June due to the weather. The young golfers get three sessions, two days on the range then putting and chipping and then a big wind up with a couple of hundred kids on the golf course at the same time.
"I think we have about 200 kids under the age of 10 so it is pretty wild to see all of the kids," said Chambers.
"I think that Swift Current should be really proud that we have so many kids coming out," he said. "Junior golf in the province and in Canada is going down the past couple of years. They don't like to admit that but the numbers are going down."
"Parents are looking for a great sport for kids to play and golf is a great sport, it is a great place for kids to be. They learn etiquette, value rules, teamwork, individual play, they have so many different ways of doing it."
Chambers said that, especially for female golfers, there are opportunities out there in the world of golf.
"There are more golf scholarships for girls than there is girls to take them right now. So that means a good future for the girls that want to take it up. Not that I am trying to push them into it but it is nice to have an option, especially when you are finishing school."
The program appears to have a bright future as it features 80 golfers under the age six and another 80 kids ages seven and eight.
"Now for kids 12 and up we are starting inter-clubs where we will take them to different golf courses throughout the province to play with other kids. We have some board members that will take them out and assist them in tournaments as well."
Junior tournaments in the province used to feature over 80 golfers and now often host only 20 or 30 golfers. But the outlook is much brighter in Swift Current, where Chambers said there are more kids golfing than in all of Regina these days.
"We are just proud of the fact that we are doing such great numbers. I think that even Chinook has up to a 75 over there, which is great. We have a lot of kids in Swift Current and surrounding areas taking up golf."