Working with Junior Tournament Players
By John Mason, PGA Director of Golf at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course
I, like most of you, have been working with junior golfers for many years now. What I have noticed in the past 20 years is the juniors have not changed much, but the parents have. When I first started teaching juniors in 1992 the parents would bring their child to the golf course and leave them for a few hours to enjoy the wonderful game of golf and learn a few things along the way; such as sportsmanship, honesty, and etiquette. Rather than being overly concerned about their child becoming a superstar golfer they wanted to know they were in a safe environment and were enjoying themselves.
Today I find more parent involvement, which I think is great for everything except golf swings, golf scores and tournament golf. I have had success getting my young players to excel at tournament golf because I had some success myself, observed others better than myself and discovered what it took. It is interesting that many parents are not that involved to begin with, but when their child starts to improve and show some promise they start to show up on the lesson tee, asking questions. This is inconsistent and I know the child thinks the same thing. At this point I pay attention to the student’s behavior and attitude. Usually when they are confused they quit paying attention and are easily distracted. Confusion generally starts when they have several different people telling them several different things. This is when I sit down with the parents and make sure we are all on the same page. I send student progress reports home periodically and hope that everyone concerned realizes the time and commitment necessary.
Working with junior tournament players is very fulfilling, watching them grow and mature into fine golfers and people. I believe as PGA Golf Professionals it is our responsibility to grow the game and getting young people excited about the game of golf is a very important piece of the puzzle. There are many activities out there for young people to engage in; soccer, baseball, football, basketball, swimming, karate and surfing just to name a few. Golf, after all, is the greatest game of all, but remember the famous words of Bobby Jones “there are two distinct kinds of golf – just plain golf and tournament golf. Golf – the plain variety – is the most delightful of games, an enjoyable, companionable pastime; tournament golf is thrilling, heartbreaking, terribly hard work – a lot of fun when you are young with nothing much on your mind, but fiercely punishing in the end”. Tournament golf is not for everyone and when you begin working with a young person interested in playing tournament golf do your best to make sure the parents, caddies, friends and relatives all understand each one’s role in the child’s game. We are, after all, looked up to as the most qualified person for this very important job.
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