We are writing in response to the Aug. 4 column by Kalle Oakes about the state of golf in Maine.

Obviously, he’s spending too much time at the office and not enough time at golf courses to know what he’s writing. That’s evidenced by the fact the Sun Journal didn’t even bother to attend the Maine Junior Golf Championship, held at nearby Val Halla Municipal Golf Course in Cumberland.

There was a painful absence of press at the junior championship, where more than 130 boys and girls vied for titles in four different divisions. The level of golf was good.

The graduates from the 12-and-under division competed in the championship division for 15-17 year olds. The graduates of that division competed in the Maine Amateur Championship. Of the 44 players who made the cut at the Amateur this year, 31 graduated from the Maine Junior Golf program.

Oakes’s column was offensive, mostly because it comes at a time when all seven golf organizations in the state have come together specifically to promote golf. We’ve embarked on a joint venture – the newly formed Maine Golf Foundation – to help grow, sustain and honor the game we so love.

The column did nothing but criticize a sport that has helped and influenced so many kids, not to mention pay for their college educations through golf scholarships.

Did you know that the Maine Golf Foundation will be housed at Val Halla, where there are more than 300 young people and more than 160 new women golfers taking up the game? Did you know that last year, the boys and girls junior champions also won the men’s and women’s amateur titles and then turned around and defended their junior titles? That’s never been done anywhere before.

Did you know the Maine State Golf Association tournament schedule is one of the biggest in the country, despite the fact we allegedly only have a five-month golf season?

Instead of criticizing scores shot at the various championships across the state, Oakes should have celebrated the fact that Maine embraces golfers of all abilities. Golf is a game of a lifetime, one of the only sports a father and daughter can play at the same time, that allows a family time together, where all four players can compete on equal footing, thanks to the handicap system.

The Maine Junior Golf program alone runs tournaments across the state for more than 300 kids. It only costs $20 to play. We never turn anyone away if they can’t afford to pay. Out of the top six finishers from Maine in this year’s New England Amateur Championship, all are products of the Maine Junior Golf Program. (As is Alexa Rancourt, by the way.)

While it may be true in other parts of the country, and the world, that golf is an elitist game, Maine’s golf associations work hard to include everyone who plays the game. Believe it or not, the women players in the recent championships who didn’t break 100 competed just as hard and with as much integrity as players on the PGA Tour. Their score means something to them. Their goal might not be to break par, but it might be to shoot a low net score.

But the column didn’t stop to consider what those goals might be.

The column contradicts itself, first by saying golf is elitist and then critiquing the quality of competition. In case you haven’t noticed, our general population is aging. We think it’s wonderful that the average age of the women in the championship was 40. We’re proud of the fact that all three amateur associations in Maine include golfers of all abilities – and that our associations exist to the benefit all golfers, not just those of supposed championship caliber.

We’re proud of the fact that in the past year, we’ve sent players to six different United States Golf Association championships, and we’re sending three men and three women to the USGA State Team Championship this fall. Despite the size of our state and our short season, there is much success here.

More than that, there’s a passion for golf, a sport that promotes lifelong family values. A sport that gives more than $50,000 annually to students in Maine. What other sport that does that?

The Maine Golf Foundation has wonderful things planned for the future of golf in Maine. It’s going to take educating everyone about our mission in order to be successful.

If Oakes truly cared about the future of the game, he could have helped by using his pen to write something positive about this wonderful sport that we all hold so special.

Kate Boyle is president of the Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association; Scott Johnson is president and Nancy Storey is executive director of the Maine State Golf Association; Robert Timmins is president of the Maine Golf Foundation and Charleen Wiseman is president of the Women’s Maine State Golf Association.

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