Bob Milner, head instructor of Sackville’s junior golf program, offers some tips to a young golfer during a practice session on Monday morning.
© KATIE TOWER PHOTO
SACKVILLE, N.B. – -The future of the Sackville Golf Club may be observed any Monday morning during the summer simply by pausing for a few minutes and observing the assorted nine to 15-year-olds banging balls onto what was formerly the number two green adjacent to the Fairfield Road.
But don’t get too close – an errant golf ball could find you just as two or three came oh so close to your columnist as he got a little too near to the action.
Bob Milner of Amherst is the head instructor and has been for the past three seasons and he says the number of youngsters attending the sessions has grown fairly rapidly. There were 12 out the first year, 23 the second and this year at least 30 turn out to learn the fundamentals of a game that can be, at best, frustrating.
“If these young people learn the game properly they will find it most enjoyable and will likely continue throughout their lifetime,” Milner said. “It’s young people like this who will not only secure the future for clubs like this but golf, in general, around the world.”
He explained that everything from the stance to driving, approaching and putting are taught but also etiquette - the proper manner in which golfers should conduct themselves on the course.
On this particular day the boys and girls were tuning up their short game or approaching skills, obviously some with more enthusiasm than accuracy but they were enjoying themselves and absorbing much about one of the world’s oldest and most honourable sports.
I just like to get out of the house, enjoy competition in the outdoors and, hopefully, some day be able to par this course.
Special junior lessons have been provided at the local layout for generations. One of the earliest instructors was the late Leaman Dougherty and many others have taken their turn, including Earl Thompson. Judi MacLellan has been coordinator for the past 10 years and says she returns year after year merely because she loves young people. She devoted many years as physical education director at Salem Elementary School prior to retirement.
Assisting with the program on a regular basis have been Sue Seaborn and Terry Partridge. And they do it for the love of the game and their belief that their work will assist young people in finding a game in which they will enjoy throughout their lives.
A trio of young golfers took a break from knocking balls around to discuss their thoughts on the game.
Michael Alder was not necessarily your typical “rookie” by any means. A 14 handicapper he still returns regularly in order to “pick up the little nuances” to allow him to compete and improve on his best round to date of 79.
“I just like to get out of the house, enjoy competition in the outdoors and, hopefully, some day be able to par this course.”
He has been a regular for five seasons and is one of the top young prospects in the club, although Colby Tower is another whom Alder claims is “almost his equal.”
Elizabeth Jones is a first year player who says her goal is to develop her game so she can play successfully with her family.
“I enjoy golf much more than playing with my “high-tech toys” she said “and it is much more fun.”
Jack Wilson-Tyrrell says, “There’s nothing else to do in the mornings.” He says the only electronic device he has is a television so that is not a distraction and thus he is able to concentrate on the game he has already learned to love. This is the first year for the nine year-old future senior member of the club.
And for only the second season all restrictions on playing time for juniors have been removed. For just $120 a season these young boys and girls can arrange a game and play as frequently as their older colleagues. However, they are obliged to obey the rules of etiquette and allow faster and older members to play through.
It’s expected this move has been taken to encourage more competition in light of the shrinking numbers of those playing the game around the world. The Sackville Club has felt the same trend as others with memberships falling dramatically resulting in the need to curb spending and finding ways to encourage people to join.
As both Milner and MacLellan attest “what you see out here is the future of golf.”
May it be so as the local layout provides an amazing asset for a community that has developed a wide ranging program of recreation for its young people – one that is the envy of others throughout the region.