Essentially, the junior golf season in Maine has concluded. Yes, there is a three-day New England Junior Championship being held at Purpoodock this week, but the Maine junior season schedule has been completed.
Commenting on that season, First Tee of Maine Executive Director Ron Bibeau thinks that 2015 has been a good year, marked by progress in several areas.
“The Maine State Golf Association has told me that there were 250 participants on its MSGA Junior Tour this summer,” Bibeau said. “That’s fantastic and it is great for children who want to play competitive golf. They had some unbelievable venues, courses that all of us want to play. Kudos to the MSGA for this.”
In the meantime, Bibeau said it has also been a good summer for 11 First Tee programs at courses throughout the state. More than 600 children participated in those activities.
Bibeau then spoke about a special program he has started at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. At that facility, he has exposed young people, many who probably never thought in their wildest dreams they would get to play, to the sport. He has taken Long Creek youth to South Portland Municipal and most recently to a driving range. The combination of them learning about golf and acquiring the “core values” is what First Tee is all about.
“My mission is to get a club into the hands of kids who never have had an opportunity to hit a golf ball,” Bibeau said. “Too many people think that golf is an elitist sport for the wealthy. Juniors are the future of the game, and if we don’t reach these kids now, they may not ever play.”
Upcoming are fund-raising events for First Tee, and its National School Program begins in September, operating throughout the school year with thousands of Maine students gaining exposure to golf at their schools.
Because it is vital to the futures of both organizations, First Tee and the MSGA are partners in numerous kids’ golf projects.
Nancy Storey, executive director of the MSGA, said: “We’re going to be working over the winter to see what we can do to add more events in the shoulder seasons, especially in the spring since golf is a fall sport for high schools.
“The Joint Committee of Junior Golf Maine is working hard to coordinate a meaningful, complete offering of junior opportunities for all of our kids for the whole golf season, not just for the traditional 2 1/2 months that they are out of school.”
With quality people like Bibeau and Storey using their energy and resources to promote junior golf, the sport is in excellent hands.
With the opening of public schools, the Maine State Golf Association has wrapped up its Junior Tour for the 2015 season, but that does not mean the MSGA is winding down its tournament schedule. The Senior Tour continues tomorrow at Martindale, and the Mid-Week Special is Thursday at Waterville. The Weekend Tournament schedule shows Friday and Saturday at Penobscot Valley.
Last week was a good one for two tri-county golfers.
Bob Darling of Fox Ridge captured the State of Maine Championship Aug. 12 at Sugarloaf. His 76-73 — 149 was three shots better than Shawn Warren, who lives in Cape Elizabeth. Darling managed to play a pain-free tournament and endured some very tough summer weather conditions during the first round, as wind and heavy rain made it difficult to control golf shots at Sugarloaf, which is not an easy course on a mild summer day.
Andrew Slattery of Minot, won the MSGA Match Play Invitational Championship, which was held at Slattery’s home course, Martindale. In the final, he topped Jeff Cole, 2-and-1. Slattery also won the Maine Amateur Championship in 2014.