As the Maine State Golf Association’s Junior Tour began this week, efforts continue at courses around the state to introduce the game to young players.

At Waterville Country Club, head professional Don Roberts has run one four-day clinic and is set to begin another July 9-12 for kids in grades 3-7. Each session runs three hours a day and covers the basics along with rules and etiquette.

“We split them up, putting, chipping and on the range,” Roberts said. “And we take them out on the course.”

At this point, Roberts doesn’t tinker too much with individual swings.

“You’ve got to let them swing naturally,” Roberts said. “They figure it out. They’ve got to be able to swing and hit it a long way nowadays.”

Roberts said Waterville is getting “quite a few more families” but that has yet to translate into more junior memberships, which are $300 each.

“At one time we had 45 (junior memberships),” Roberts said. “Now we have 20.”

Getting more juniors also helps lure more parents to the course, he said. Roberts starts younger kids at the beginning of the fairway rather than the tee box and tries to make it fun for everyone.

“We’ve got two or three that are fairly serious,” he said. “As long as they’re out here playing.”

At J.W. Parks Golf Course in Pittsfield, pro Mike Dugas has started a PGA Junior League, which is set to begin play this week. Dugas had hoped to involve more golf clubs but that has yet to materialize.

“We got 14 (players) and we’re going to start our first match next weekend,” he said. “We have two teams of seven and we’ll go with what we’ve got. I plan on doing it again next year. The more we can get the word out about it, the better it’s going to be.”

The league is designed for kids ages 8-13 and seven of this year’s players are girls. They have one practice a week, then participate in rotating two-person scrambles during matches. There are similar leagues in southern Maine but no others in central Maine.

“The team doesn’t have to be based at my place,” Dugas said. “It’s not something where you’ve got to come to J.W. Parks every day.”

Junior memberships are up at Natanis, according to general manager Rob Browne.

“We’ve got a ton of junior members, especially high school kids,” he said.

Natanis pro Dick Browne runs a clinic for $10 each Wednesday that attracts between 15 and 30 kids.

* * *

Golf is not only for the young. Many men and women continue playing into their 80s and 90s. Cobbossee Colony owner Bill Sylvester said Raymond Young, who will be 88 in September, plays twice a week in addition to mowing the fairways.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys in the 80s,” Sylvester said, citing John Neighoff and Freeland Smith, both 88. Smith drives up from Kennebunkport once a week to play. Hack Dearnley, 94, has yet to play this season because of a medical setback, but Sylvester hasn’t counted him out.

“If he’s not back this year, he’ll be back next year,” he said.

Shorter nine-hole courses, like Cobbossee Colony and Western View, attract older players who don’t hit the ball as far as they used to. Dot Kendall, who turned 90 in December, will be feted at Western View by some of her playing partners this week.

“She’s still playing,” owner Brenda Matthews said. “They’ll scramble nine holes and she’ll make a lot of putts and occasionally chip in.”

* * *

After a few years without a golf program, Thomas College is bringing the sport back this fall. The school has hired Waterville Country Club pro Don Roberts and will play its home matches there.

“It will be a really good fit,” Roberts said. “I can help the kids with their swings.”

Roberts played college golf for Bruce MacGregor at Husson.

“He was pretty detailed oriented,” he said.

The Terriers will compete as a club team this fall and already have five or six matches lined up. Next fall, they’ll compete as a varsity team in the North Atlantic Conference.

Students interested in playing golf at Thomas can also look into a career in golf through the school’s golf concentration program. Roberts said the relationship between Thomas and the Waterville Country Club may also lead to internship and work opportunities for students.

* * *

Rain most of last week and throughout the month has made June a lousy month for golf. Friday was almost a complete washout.

“We had four people who went out and played,” Natanis general manager Rob Browne said. “Technically we were open. People are sick of playing in the rain.”

Browne said many of the outings or corporate tournaments have gone on in the rain, but the course could use a respite.

“The greens are still in great shape,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be sunny, it just needs to stop raining. This is about as bad as we’ve seen it in a while. It’s rained almost every weekend.”

CHIP SHOTS . . . Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and P&C Insurance have committed to sponsorships to the Maine Women’s Amateur tournament, scheduled for July 29-31 at the Brunswick Golf Club. Defending champion Emily Bouchard of the Biddeford-Saco Country club, will be in the first group teeing off in the 54-hole stroke play tournament . . . Waterville Country Club will host the Women’s Amateur in 2014 and the Maine Amateur for men in 2015 . . . This year’s Maine Amateur will be held at the Augusta Country Club on July 9-11 and the Charlie’s Maine Open on July 29-30 . . . Sheepscot Links is hosting the Whitefield Lions Club Tournament on Saturday.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 

 

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