Gordon on Golf

Golf in Schools: The gift that keeps on giving

Golf in Schools

To find out how you can grow your business by Adopting a School, visit golfcanada.ca/adoptaschool or call 1-800-263-0009 ext. 475.

There’s been much hand-wringing recently over the “future of the game” and where golf is headed if more youngsters don’t get involved.

For those of you who really care about the future of the game, the solution might be to stop wringing your hands and use them to open your wallets. Here’s your chance.

Sept. 19-23 is national Adopt a School Week, created by Golf Canada and supported by the PGA of Canada, provincial golf associations and the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada.

Adopt a School is an offshoot of the successful Golf in Schools program created by Golf Canada in conjunction with the PGA of Canada and PHE Canada with support from the National Golf Course Owners Association Canada as a program partner. It provides courses, companies and individuals with the opportunity to “adopt” one or more schools of their choosing to introduce the Golf in Schools program at that school. (Schools can also enroll in the program on their own if they wish.)

In a very generous gesture, for a limited time the Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association is matching all adoptions, giving donors the option to select two schools to receive the GIS program, while donating funding for just one.

The GIS program, currently in more than 3,000 elementary and high schools with more than 336,000 students participating from coast to coast, includes a “best-in-class” learning resource as well as child-friendly golf-specific equipment.

“It’s a fabulous program and the equipment is so well designed,” says Enid Botchett. A retired educator in Edmonton, she has a long history in volunteerism including serving in many roles with Alberta Golf, including president. In 2012, she was named Golf Canada’s volunteer of the year.

But as excellent as the program materials and equipment are, Botchett says having a local champion for the program is equally vital.

Fellow Edmontonian Patti Christensen agrees. Now an elementary principal, she has shared her love of golf at every school where she has worked.

Like Botchett, Christensen says the Golf in Schools program is unlikely to achieve its ultimate goal of not only introducing kids to the game, but keeping them in the sport unless there is a connection with a golf course or driving range.

“For Golf in Schools to really work, you must build a community partnership with golf courses. It’s not just about showing the kids what golf is about for a day or a few days, but helping them make the connection with the real golf experience.

“Another important part of the program is to teach them not just skills but values that come along with golf, like perseverance, etiquette, sportsmanship and character.”

For golf courses participating in the Adopt a School program, there are tangible benefits. Call it “enlightened self-interest.”

“My motivation [to support GIS]  is to grow the game because, otherwise, who is going to play golf?” says Jason Harris, owner of Orr Lake Golf Club near Barrie, Ont. Harris is heavily invested in the program, having adopted four schools in the area and paying a pro from a neighbouring course to visit those schools. Harris then busses the kids to his course to swing a club for real and get some pointers from a PGA of Canada member. Over the past few years, his support of the program has introduced more than 550 kids to golf.

“As great as the GIS concept is, Golf Canada can only do so much and they are doing their part by subsidizing the GIS packages and providing the grants to go into schools and to bring schools to the course,” says Harris.

“It is the ultimate responsibility for golf course owners to step up and continue or take over the school sponsorship by offering the in-school visits and bringing the classes to the golf course. We have to realize this is a top priority for the future of the game as well as for our business.”

Harris has seen ancillary benefits to his support of the Golf in Schools program.

“Sure, the kids come out to the course, but then they bring along mom and dad. Then there’s a whole family dynamic. Not only the kids want to play golf and take lessons, but so do their parents. We had 140 people go through our Learn to Golf clinics this summer. That’s 140 new golfers, so that’s a positive thing for golf.

“This entire program was great PR for us in the community plus we have definitely seen an increase in the number of juniors and families playing our course this year.”

Every journey starts with a first step, as the old saying goes.

With your support, Adopt a School just may provide that first step for thousands of youngsters to be introduced to “the game for a lifetime.”