Young golfers tee off
New program at CCI aims to get more young golfers to participate in the sport
COLLINGWOOD — An avid golfer has seen a disturbing trend in the sport with a lack of young people taking it up. But he’s not just putting around on the subject. He’s driving to correct it.
“Golf in general doesn’t seem to have caught on with the younger generation and the numbers are dwindling,” said Wayne McMullin a high school teacher at Collingwood Collegiate Institute ( CCI) and the school’s golf coach.
Since becoming the golf coach at CCI he’s noticed that the numbers of student golfers are getting smaller and smaller, particularly with girls, and that bothers him.
“Personally I find it a great recreational game. It’s a lifelong game for players — once they learn to play competently they can continue for the next 60 years,” he said.
So he organized spring and fall clinics at local golf courses with local golf professionals including Cameron Burechails, golf pro at The Georgian Bay Golf Academy, and a fall tournament for the boys and girls teams at CCI.
And he started a beginner girls golf program in conjunction with Errol Smith at Batteaux Creek Golf Club and Burechails that created a noncompetitive learning environment.
This was the first year that Grade 10 student Maija Colbourne joined the team.
“It’s really nice because they give you an option to work with a professional,” she said.
“There’s a competitive branch where you can go through all 18 holes and there are other students like myself who are newer to golf and choose to take lesson with Cameron and do nine holes and some older ladies at the club come out with us,” she said.
Colbourne said McMullin is “really good” and making sure everyone gets to the course and keeping everyone informed of what’s coming up.
“I tried to grow a club atmosphere for the girls to come out in the company of other girls and learn how to play, make mistakes, laugh and have fun without other influences that might tease them or make fun,” said McMullin, who has a daughter on the team.
It’s needed because there were only 13 girls competing in both junior and senior divisions of golf this fall through the Simcoe County Athletic Association compared to 120 boys, said McMullin.
“There is a gigantic disparity in the numbers. For whatever reason the girls aren’t picking up the clubs and going out to play,” he said.
McMullin said he doesn’t know exactly why and added that the golf industry also doesn’t know exactly why girls aren’t coming.
“All I’ve done is try to execute a plan that the other golf coaches have been talking about for the last couple of years.”
McMullin said the new program attracted about 20 girls from CCI, Nantyr Shores and Georgian Bay Secondary School. He credits its feasibility due to the cooperation of the golf industry and the women volunteers at Batteaux Creek. He had enough women to help out the first week but news of the program quickly spread and many more offered to assist for weeks two and three.
“Somebody would walk with them and coach them on club selection and golf etiquette, decision making and rules in a low stress environment as compared to 18 holes of stroke play,” he said.
So while the 18- hold stroke count competitions were going on, the beginners were learning at the same time.
“The hope is that the girls will gain confidence and in future years join the stroke tournaments and grow our numbers of golfers in the county,” he said.
McMullin said he knows the program is getting results because some of the girls are continuing to play, going out on their own on the weekend.
“The parents are quite excited that their daughters are expressing an interest in picking up the clubs,” he said.
News of the beginner program is growing. McMullin said he has heard from a few other schools that are interested in sending girls next fall. Plus he expects the girls who started this year to sign up again next year.
“I’m hoping we will grow it next fall and be able to incorporate even more schools,” he said.
The competitive season is already over but the team is taking part in a school championship next Monday at Batteaux Creek Golf Club followed by a barbecue.
The Collingwood Collegiate Institute’s girls golf team is starting to grow in numbers thanks to a new program started by teacher, coach and golfer Wayne McMullin, which offers girls a non- competitive introduction to the sport with professional instruction and female mentors.