Being competitive takes a backseat to fun for members of the Penticton Golf and Country Club’s junior program.
What isn’t taking a backseat are the students becoming better golfers, according to instructor Jeff Holman. He said the 10-week program that finished up in rainy conditions a week ago provides lessons mostly for those at the beginner and intermediate level.
“The main part of it is to learn the basic golf skills,” said Holman, adding that students gain valuable tips from adult members who volunteer. “That’s a great opportunity for them. That’s how we look at it.”
Holman sees the progression carry into spring tournaments and throughout the summer and fall. The golfers enter in local and provincials events, or as is the case with Kurtis Fontinha and Haley Hewer, who play in Okanagan’s Zone 2.
Fontinha is on the course everyday. His play with the iron has improved, while his average score is 73, though he’s not thrilled with that.
“I have been choking a little. It could have been a lot better,” said Fontinha, who has golfed since he was six.
Fontinha, 17, loves the pressure that comes with playing an individual sport. His play rises when he knows it matters most. Three weeks ago, the Pen High student won a tournament in Salmon Arm. He also qualified for B.C. junior, which he played on Canada Day.
“I was in a playoff to qualify,” said Fontinha. “I had to hit a pressure shot and I did to pull it off. It was cool. I think it’s a big step. My game has improved so much.”
Fontinha said the program is a good start for juniors who want to start the game and those looking to continue improving.
“We have a couple good coaches here,” said Fontinha. “It’s run pretty well by Jeff.”
Hewer, 16, loves the program and said that Holman is “awesome.”
“He’s really understanding,” she said.
With a year of high school remaining, it’s her goal to earn a golf scholarship. While in the program, her short game and putting has improved, while her iron still needs work. Hewer has also enjoyed playing with the boys, there are 72 compared to eight girls, and getting involved in their little competitions.
“I love doing that because there is always a little more pressure on yourself,” said Hewer, who wants to join the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour.
Hewer has also received support from former local pro A.J. Eathorne, who has had a huge effect on her. Hewer played with Eathorne and received tips on her short game and swing.
A smile cracks on Holman’s face when talking about the progress made by her and Fontinha.
“It’s pretty amazing for their own games,” he said.
Holman just likes to see the kids have fun and build confidence. Kids come out of the program with the skills to play competitively and continue in college.
“It’s a great feeling to see the progression that they are trying to achieve,” said Holman.