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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Kudos to the Junior Golfers

The Junior Golfers Warming Up at Star Fort


I've been watching Lydia Ko, the New Zealand teen phenom, battle her way through the LPGA Wegmans tournament for the past two days alongside women who've been doing this for 10, 15, even 20 years, and I've been thinking about the wonders of junior golf.

Yesterday, on the driving range warming up for my own first round in the Star Fort Member-Member tournament -- I'll take a look at my own ongoing grip crisis in a day or two -- I became aware that the voices filtering into my consciousness were not adult.  I looked around and realized I was surrounded by junior golfers who were working diligently on getting their grip set, their stance and alignment fine-tuned, their arms and bodies in synch.



Intrigued and more than impressed with their focus and concentration, I started eavesdropping on them as they worked their clubs and chattered with each other.  They weren't talking about last night's party tonight's.  They weren't talking about raves or heavy metal concerts or drugs or beer.  They weren't talking about their stupid parents or their cool friends.  They were talking golf.  And they were helping each other, showing each other what works and what doesn't work, when and why and and how to open your club face, how to get a few more yards with your fairway wood, how to be a little more accurate.

They weren't paying a bit of attention to me.  I was the only adult on the driving range at that point.  They glanced up at me when I snapped their picture but, unimpressed, just as quickly returned to their work.  I know quite a bit about boys the size of these junior golfers and I am not easily misled or tricked by inauthenticity.  I raised 2 of them and still play golf with one, who's now well beyond junior golf.   It's a delightful and frustrating age.  It's a crucial development moment.  The boys alongside me on the driving range were honestly and earnestly hard at work.  When better to begin to put to work some of life's most important lessons about maintaining a balance between cooperation and competition?  When better to formulate and fortify a framework of self-honesty and integrity?

Not every junior golfer is going to morph into a Lydia Ko.   But those kids I warmed up alongside yesterday, in their tidy golf shorts belted at their waistlines, their collared shirts, and their relatively clean golf shoes, have contributions to make to their world that may not attract the attention of bloggers and sportscasters, but will sustain and strengthen the communities in which they live.

The game of golf is a unique sport.  In the world of competitive athletics -- football, hockey, basketball, tennis, auto racing -- golf is the sport that's overwhelmingly play by amateurs, accommodates an incredibly broad age range, and puts women and men on an equal footing when they play against each other.   More than half of the 29 million amateur golfers in the US are over 50.  At a very realistic level, we need these kids to sustain the game we all love -- why else would we play golf, except for love of the game?  And in welcoming them into the game of golf, we are also helping to prepare them shoulder adult responsibilities in our larger communities.