Lethbridge golf pro shares love of the game with kids in Pincher Creek
A Lethbridge professional out of one of the province’s most prestigious courses — Paradise Canyon Golf Club — is doing his part to grow the game in southern Alberta by running a junior program in Pincher Creek.
Jae Maegaard has been a pro at Paradise Canyon for 15 years, including running a successful youth program there since 2004. The plan was to replicate that success at a smaller course, in a smaller town.
“I got a phone call about four-and-a-half years ago, from the golf club out in Pincher Creek, asking if I could develop a program that would allow kids to come out and have fun, and try something new — even if it was for an hour a week,” Maegaard said.
The program began with just a handful of kids, but in four years, it has flourished into a popular academy for those in the area surrounding Pincher Creek.
“We started with about eight to 10 kids, to now 50 kids in year No. 4,” Maegaard said.
“We’re super excited that it keeps growing. Kids are from all around the community: Waterton Lakes, Fort Macleod, Brocket, Crowsnest Pass and area.”
“When I first came to work at the golf course about six years ago, we had nine kids in our junior program,” said Gord Culham, manager of the Pincher Creek Golf Club. “That was my big goal was to drive the numbers up in our junior program.
“Jae and his staff are great,” Culham added. “The kids love him, they enjoy coming out here, and I haven’t had one complaint from the kids or their parents.”
The success of the program can also be seen in the number of kids who have returned, year after year.
“If I had to put a percentage on it, I would say about 20 per cent of kids have come back right from the start,” Maegaard said.
The program welcomes youth of all skill levels, but many of them start off having never held a golf club.
The group is split into two, with golfers as young as eight and as old as 18 taking part in the eight-week clinic.
“It’s really beginner basis,” Maegaard said. “The cool part about it is the kids are coming back each week and they keep talking about it, which will hopefully turn into possibly some competitive golf and them pursuing golf a little bit further.”
But Maegaard believes that golf is about a lot more than just competition.
“It’s not just golf, it’s life skills and it’s building relationships,” he said. “I know in my own experience, when I was 12 years old, I got dropped off at Picture Butte and I met some pretty cool guys that were between the ages of 20 and 30 — and even some 40-year-old guys — that I still talk to today.
“Lifelong friendships… that’s what I think the game is also about.
“I like seeing the kids be a part of the game,” Maegaard said. “If we don’t have the kids in the game, we have no future in golf. The age demographic of memberships right now is on the higher end for age, so we have to keep on producing kids and allowing them to play the game.”
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