Junior Golf Anyone?

By TODD WOLVERTON

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you buy a car, you suddenly see the same kind of car everywhere? It’s kind of weird. Why didn’t you notice it before? It’s human nature. We only notice that which is relevant to us. The same thing has happened to me regarding junior golf here in Missoula.

Last year, I wanted to find a couple of local and regional tournaments that I could sign my daughter Mari up for so she could get some tournament experience.

In asking around, I heard from several sources about a Missoula junior tour. I called the number that was given to me and to my dismay, it no longer existed. Apparently, it was a parent run series of tournaments for junior age kids, but due to personal matters and the lack of someone stepping up to take it over, it had been cancelled.

I began to look at what else was available. The first thing that I came across was the Wheat Montana Junior Tour, but it was limited to only kids that lived in the area (Bozeman, Livingston, etc.). I also found the Flathead Valley Junior Tour which covered the Flathead Valley and was open to any junior that wanted to play. Lastly, I found a couple of USGA/MSGA junior tournaments  and a smattering of junior club championships throughout the state.

Let me bottom line this for you, if I wanted Mari to be able to play in tournaments, then I was going to need to drive her to every community in the State of Montana (other than Missoula) to make this happen. And, oh by the way, junior tournaments are on weekdays, not weekends.

That means that in order to get Mari to her tournaments, I was going to have to quit my job or hire a full time chauffeur. How was I going to explain this to my wife? “I’ve decided to hire a nanny? I know that Mari is 17, but I’ve used all of my vacation days and she needs to get to her golf tournaments in Glasgow, Cut Bank and Colstip.”

I have been golfing in Missoula for nearly 40 years, but had I not needed to find Mari some tournaments to play in, I would have never known how limited the options were here in Missoula. Quite frankly, it’s a hardship. I see it in so many ways. In order for the high schools to have a golf program, the coaches hold a charity tournament. Without it, it is likely that Big Sky, Sentinel and Hellgate’s golf programs would be, at best, a shadow of what they are today.

Where can I sign up my kid for a junior golf league? You can’t because it doesn’t exist. Where can I find a PGA sanctioned junior program? You can’t because no local golf course is PGA First Tee certified. You might be able to find a “summer camp” for 2 weeks but what then?

This may be a harsh statement, but based on the evidence, Missoula junior golf is treated as merely an afterthought. I went to the MSGA (Montana State Golf Association) web site to look at junior golf tournaments for this year there is only 1 tournament listed for the Missoula area. ONE! Is that the best we can do?

Now I’m sure that there are events at the Missoula Country Club for its member’s kids, but this is different. There is ONE open tournament for juniors in Missoula. If you live in the Flathead valley or Gallatin County, you are golden, but if you live in West Central Montana and want your kid to play competitive golf this summer, get ready to travel.

I am 47 and need both my income and my wife’s income to maintain our family’s modest lifestyle. Getting our kid to tournaments in Lewistown, Billings, Sydney, Townsend, Whitefish, Bozeman, Butte (or Two Dot for that matter) on a Tuesday or Wednesday is just not practical at this point.  If you are independently wealthy, own a 12 passenger van and have always dreamed of carting a bunch of ambitious young golfers to all corners of Montana, call me. I have a job for you (after a stringent background check is completed).

Call me crazy, but I think that as a community we can do better.  If you are the parent, grandparent, friend, acquaintance or just have interested in the future of junior golf in Missoula, I would like to hear from you. What do you think? What are your suggestions? Post a comment here or on the Missoula Junior Golf page on Facebook by clicking the “like” button and becoming a friend. There you can also keep in touch with others interested in Missoula junior golf, post comments, questions, concerns and receive all kinds of up-to-date information related to junior golf in Missoula.

PS. I just heard that the Ranch Club is going to offer a fun “try out golf” day for kids 5-18 this Saturday (May 21, 2011) starting at 10 a.m. There will be various games, and age appropriate equipment. Bring your kids out. It should be great fun.

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Todd Wolverton was born in Missoula and is a UM class of ‘88 alum. Todd and has been an avid golfer for over 40 years, but make no mistake, he’s no pro. He’s just a guy on the course yelling “fore”. Todd is the first to tell you he has his good days and his bad – more bad than good – but to him there are no bad days that include golf. Yes, Todd loves to tell stories and right here is where you will hear them–on a weekly basis. You can expect stories about his latest round, stuff he knows or thinks he knows, and interesting anecdotes about the the past and the present in the world of golf as he knows it…….Missoula areagolf!