Gordon on Golf

Show your skills

For kids who are into golf, the CN Future Links Junior Skills Challenge has it all: a reason to spend more time at the course or range, an opportunity to compete against their peers locally, provincially and nationally, online stats tracking and personal leaderboard, and a chance to —not only advance to the national final at Glen Abbey Golf Club the Saturday prior to the RBC Canadian Open —but to actually play the course and rub shoulders with some of their golf heroes.

Created in 2008, the CN Future Links Junior Skills Challenge is focused on developing the key golf skills of putting, chipping, iron play and driving. Administered by Golf Canada, and run by PGA of Canada professionals at facilities across Canada, the program allows participants up to the age of 18 to compete in all four skills and receive a score based on their performance in each of the categories.

“When we launched this program, we saw it as the first output of our Long Term Player Development [LTPD] program,” says Jeff Thompson, Golf Canada’s Chief Sport Officer. “The redesigned Junior Skills Challenge is an interactive program aligned with the LTPD guidelines that focuses on all the key golf skills, rather than just a score. It is now an integral part of the suite of junior programs that is available to kids across Canada.”

In addition to the National Skills Challenge, other CN Future Links programming includes the Learn to Play program as well as mobile clinics, PGA Junior Leagues, Girls Club and the CN Future Links Championships. As part of its investment in Canadian junior golf, CN is also a proud supporter of Golf in Schools.

In 2014, there were 150 Skills Challenge qualifying events throughout Canada, involving more than 3,500 juniors. In total, since the program’s inception in 2008, more than 15,000 kids have participated.

The 2014 national final was held at Angus Glen GC in Markham, Ont., last September in conjunction with the inaugural World Junior Girls Golf Championship. The champions were: Braxton Kuntz, Breezy Bend Country Club, Manitoba (Boys 911); Sarah Gallagher, Braeben Golf Course, Ontario (Girls 911); Finn Lawlor, Seymour Golf Club, British Columbia (Boys 1214); Laura Wong, Seymour Golf Club, British Columbia (Girls 1214); Tyler Leclair, Seymour Golf Club, British Columbia (Boys 1518); Molly MacDermaid, Gowan Brae Golf Club, New Brunswick (Girls 1518).

“It was a lot of fun out there,” said Leclair after his victory. “It was very special to win here. The event was really set up well and all of the sponsors have been great. It was tough, everyone battled hard, and it got close and came down to one putt in the end. To win this on a national level is very sweet.”

This year, the topperforming juniors will be invited to Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ont., to compete in the national championship on July 18, the Saturday prior to the RBC Canadian Open. The next day, they will play in a Ryder Cupstyle event on the tournament course. On the Monday of tournament week, they will have a chance to caddie in the Golf Canada Foundation ProAm, and on Wednesday, they can walk with a pro inside the ropes.

“It’s a real weeklong memorable experience of a lifetime,” says Thompson.

Each of the qualified and attending participants in the final will receive a performance recognition package valued at more than $200 courtesy of Titleist. The winners of the national event in each age group for each gender will also receive a performance recognition package valued at $300 courtesy of Titleist. The national champions in the 1518 age group will also receive an exemption into one CN Future Links Championship in 2016.

Juniors can get involved in two ways. There is no charge for either option.

First, they can register with an official CN Future Links Skills Challenge facility. (A listing of participating facilities is available at www.cnfuturelinks.com.) Then, a PGA of Canada professional will run them through an official skills test. Following that, the junior can post and review their skills scores on the national leaderboard.

Alternatively, they can develop their skills on their own time and track their progress with a personalized online practice scorecard. Where they practice doesn’t matter—golf course, range, field or backyard. They will receive personalized login information so they can access a secure and private site to record their putting, chipping, iron play and driving scores.

“One of the strengths of the CN Future Links Junior Skills Challenge is that it is designed to identify and reward kids who have wellrounded golf games,” says Thompson, “and that is one of the goals of our Long Term Player Development Program.

Details on the CN Future Links Junior Skills Challenge and the entire listing of programs and information for junior golfers, parents, instructors and facilities are available at: cnfuturelinks.com.

Show your skills

This article was originally published in the June 2015 edition of Golf Canada Magazine. To view the full magazine, click the image to the left.