Grady Lancaster praises the Penticton Golf and Country Club junior program for helping develop his skills.
Lancaster, 14, has been in the program for three years and has picked up many techniques. The focal point has always been to help the juniors improve their skills from driving to putting the ball.
PGCC golf pro Jeff Hollman, in his ninth year in charge of the program, gears it around relearning the game, player enjoyment and giving experience they can take to the course.
“If I didn’t do some of this, I couldn’t play that well,” said Lancaster, who is one of 67 junior golfers in the program. “If I didn’t practice like this and do these little things, I couldn’t play as well as I could now.”
The eight-week program wraps up on June 7 and Lancaster’s priority has been on staying and building his confidence as well as remaining focused.
“If you’re not focused, you’re not going to play well,” he said.
Lancaster’s improvement has allowed him to push himself against other golfers in the Okanagan in B.C. Golf Zone 2 play. To play in Zone 2, golfers must be a member of a club or joins the B.C. Players Club. Each weekend the golfers play different courses. His best score was carding 90 in Summerland.
“They shoot very well. It’s hard to beat them,” he said.
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Hunter Parsons, 15, comes out because he loves playing and getting better. He’s logged several rounds at PGCC as he attempts to lower his handicap of 18. Parsons said PGCC golf pro Jeff Hollman has been key in helping him improve his techniques. Chipping is Parson’s strongest skill.
“I enjoy the challenge. Sometimes every hit doesn’t go as well as you planned,” he said.
The golf course is a second home to Jackson Garnett, 12. He plays the course four times a week and tests out everything he has picked up. Garnett is determined to improve his chipping and putting. He’s pretty good with driving the ball.
Jackson Coates is among the older players in the group. Coates hits the course each time driven to be better, but knows bad days happen.
“It’s a very mental game. Not every shot is going to be perfect,” he said. “You have to handle the bad shots.”
Coates said the program is good with helping with skill development. It’s also helped him enjoy success in Zone 2 play. His best result recently coming in Osoyoos where he finished third after carding a 76. He finished one shot behind winner. Coates said playing in the Zone helps as it gives you the skills for tournaments where there is more pressure.
“The moment you put them all in front of the gallery, the pressure is on them to perform,” said Hollman. “Most times they do.”
Over the years the PGCC junior program has had about a dozen or so kids compete in Zone 2 or the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour (MJT). MJT is a non-profit run exclusively by PGA of Canada Golf Professionals. It plays a role in developing young players, including several Canadian National Champions, many Future Links and Provincial Champions, as well as numerous graduates that have gone on to successful golf careers as Professional Tour Players or as club professionals.
Hollman said most of the kids in the program are between 13 to 16.
“They are trying to get to the next level, still learning the skills,” he said.