Canucks, PGA of BC help youth swing into summer
Heading into its fourth year, Canucks Junior Golf Week exposes hundreds of youth to the beautiful game of golf
It's a success story where the province's pre-eminent sports brand is helping grow another sport.
Canucks Junior Golf Week, presented by Odlum Brown Limited, launched in 2014 and has since welcomed nearly 2,000 youth participants—the vast majority of whom had no previous golf experience.
The Vancouver Canucks put their name behind the program and work to promote the initiative to more than 50,000 youth hockey players, the PGA of BC oversees the program and its local golf professionals provide the fun-based learning atmosphere at courses and driving ranges all over the province.
“The reason we're involved as a hockey team is one of our main goals is to make sure the youth of today are as active as possible, and we're encouraging them to get outside and enjoy a sport as great as golf,” says Rod Brathwaite of the Canucks Centre for BC Hockey and alumni liaison. “Promoting active living is important to us. We also believe in kids becoming well-rounded athletes and learning life skills such as good sportsmanship and interacting well with others.”
Golf professional Chris Lutes is the PGA of BC'S 2016 Junior Golf Leader of the Year and works out of the Northview Golf Academy. He has seen how the program has grown, from his first classes of 20 students to last year, when he had 65 on the first day and 80 on the second day, which kept him and his fellow teaching professionals beyond busy.
“Perhaps our biggest highlight is the obstacle course station which is run by (Northview colleague) Lindsay Manion,” says Lutes. “The kids are tested on their agility, their coordination, their balance and it really helps develop overall athleticism. But there's always a lot of fun too. It always ends with a tug of war.”
For Lutes, who has dedicated his career to helping youths become more well-rounded athletes and more complete golfers, seeing their progress warms his heart.
“I remember a brother and sister who I had in the first year, they were seven or eight and they had never picked up a club before,” recalls Lutes. “Now I see them, they're not only playing, they're dipping their toes into junior competitions.”
Canucks Junior Golf Week runs from July 2-9 this summer. Last year, approximately 700 children aged 5 to 18 participated in one-day camps held at 32 golf facilities, with many locations hosting multiple camps.
The camp cost is $20 per child and while each golf pro designs their own program, the camps are generally one to two hours each, and participants get introductions to putting, chipping, driving and golf etiquette. Equipment is provided at the camps and participants also take home a golf gift or apparel branded with the Canucks logo.
Lutes says he is passionate about the program for a very good reason.
“Golf has meant so much to me. I love showing kids how wonderful this game can be. I have the chance to share something that has been a huge part of my life for the past 25 years. It is the basis for some of my strongest relationships and that's something I hope to teach them.”
For more information about Canucks Junior Golf Week head to www.pgabc.org/golfweek. Registration will run from the end of April through to June 23 and you can sign your child up at www.canucks.com/golfweek.