Thursday, 15 June 2017 04:59

Elmwood received national award for junior golf program

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Jeff Chambers speaks at meeting June 11. Jeff Chambers speaks at meeting June 11.

The efforts of the Elmwood Golf & Country Club and the club’s head professional Jeff Chambers to promote the game to youth has received recognition from Golf Canada.

The 2016 Junior Facility of the Year award for outstanding commitment to junior golf was presented to the Elmwood Golf & Country Club at the conclusion of a Future Links Junior Skills Challenge, June 11.
“I think it’s just a testament to what the course is all about,” Elmwood Golf & Country Club President Darcy Congdon said after the presentation. “It’s about growing the game of golf, it’s about being a good community partner.”
He noted the Swift Current club’s management, staff and membership are all behind the efforts to promote the game to young golfers in the area.
“We are proud of our young golfers and we want the young golfers to be at our course and to grow the game,” he said. “So really, it’s about the entire membership.”
He referred to the role of the club's head professional Jeff Chambers to attract more junior golfers to the game.
“He enjoys teaching young people and growing the game,” Congdon said. “So that got us kick-started and I think as a board and as a membership we’ve seen the growth in numbers of people playing and parents being here with their kids and just enjoying the facilities. So it just makes sense that we as a club support Jeff and the junior program.”
The Future Links Facility of the Year award was introduced in 2013 to recognize the accomplishments of Golf Canada member clubs to promote the goals of the Future Links, driven by Acura junior golf program.
Adam Hunter, the manager of Golf Canada’s junior programs, said award applicants are vetted by Golf Canada staff members.
“Then ultimately the top five or so are sent to the Sport Development Committee at Golf Canada for choosing of the facility, and Jeff was the lucky recipient this year,” he mentioned.
He noted that Chambers’ engagement in the school system stood out among the candidates who were considered for the 2016 award.
“Throughout the whole winter he’s in a number of different schools in Saskatchewan and that’s really what separated Jeff from the other candidates,” Hunter said. “Everyone’s well-deserving, but Jeff really goes above and beyond to introduce golf in the school system.”
Hunter has been aware of the junior golf program at the Elmwood Golf & Country Club for a number of years.
“Ever since I started with Golf Canada seven years ago, I’ve been working with Jeff to grow junior program here at Elmwood, but really ever since Future Links, driven by Acura went through a revamp in 2009, that’s really when Jeff has started excelling within Future Links,” he said.
According to Chambers, it is a big honour for the Elmwood Golf & Country Club to receive this award and he credited the club for giving him the opportunity to develop the junior program.
“They’ve allowed so much for juniors here,” he said. “Ever since my first interview with Elmwood to come back as the head pro, they asked can you do anything with the junior program and I said I think so and I think we have. So nine years later, we are known as one of the top junior programs in all of the country which is pretty amazing right here in Swift Current.”
As a result of his efforts to implement the Future Links program at the club, the number of participants grew from 60 to 340 children per year during the past nine years. This year there are over 160 children in the Learn to Golf program.
“We’ve been doing the junior Learn to Golf program for many years and we’ve had lots of kids,” he said. “Everybody knows that about Elmwood. We love to have the kids here.”
He implemented several Get Linked initiatives to attract junior golfers and he expanded the club's connection to students in the area. He conducted a Future Links field trip event to connect local students to nearby golf clubs for introductory lessons and he reached over 1,000 juniors through the Future Links Golf in Schools program.
“I take my equipment into all the schools in southwest Saskatchewan and I absolutely love it,” he said. “I was all the way down to Coronach to teach this year and up to Biggar. I’ll go anywhere where they want me because I want to get out there and teach kids because it is so much fun.”
Chambers appreciates the opportunity to promote golf to young players in Swift Current and in other smaller communities in Saskatchewan.
“I’ve had quite a few job offers actually to head out to Ontario to take over some pretty big clubs and to grow their programs and I just tell them I love Swift Current because of it being a small place,” he said. “I get to know every kid here and I think that is a huge advantage. We don’t have as many to draw from, but the ones that we do draw from we can create relationships with and family relationships and that’s what keeps us going.”
He will continue to promote golf among youth and to teach junior golfers. His main wish is to see more young golfers stay in the sport.
“I think we have a good program,” he said. “My biggest want is to have more kids staying in the game and playing more tournaments and be competitive, but it’s very hard with all the other sports. We have a lot of sports and it’s a small community where typically the athletic kids are playing every sport and it’s just too much.”
He still remembers his experience as a junior in Manitoba, where he grew up, and the lasting impact of the encouragement he received from a golf professional at a golf clinic in Winnipeg.
“That boost from that pro lasted and now every time I do my clinics, every time I say something to one of those individuals, I remember what that felt like,” he said. “So I’m hoping I can boost them into going on. And it’s worked pretty good I think.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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