Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 June 2012 23:36
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 22:57
by Gord Montgomery
The Maple Leaf Junior Tour (MJT) isn’t promising its young players fame and fortune but what they will give them is a good start at putting a game together that could eventually lead them down that road.
Trent Matson, from the MJT, explained this program with over 55 events this summer for young players is run by golf professionals and was developed and put into play 14 years ago by its executive director, Murray Poje, in B.C.
“He noticed there wasn’t really anything out there competitive for the kids to play so he and a couple of other were talking, and he decided to start a junior golf tour called the Western Canada Junior Golf Tour,” Matson explained at a tour stop in Spruce Grove, AB.
“It started with a few events in B.C. and then expanded to Alberta. “Then, Boston Pizza came on board as a sponsor and as it kept growing we started getting pretty good numbers in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
Since those early days the MJT circuit has grown to now include stops in Manitoba and Ontario forcing a changeover from the original name to the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour.
The success of the program, Matson noted, is due to a number of things. “It’s obviously a dream,” he said of kids aspiring to perhaps follow in the footsteps of Tiger Woods.
“He grew up playing in the California Junior Golf Association, then he played in the junior Worlds and went on to win, and then went onto college - it’s a definite progress.
You play junior golf, then college, then the tour. That’s ideal. It’s extremely difficult to go from high school to the PGA Tour.
“Our goal is that we’re trying to help the kids get to post-secondary golf. We’ll help by giving them a competitive avenue all the way through their junior golf. Our new direction is that we’re the road to college golf in Canada.”
Matson went on to explain that statement covers more than just providing talented young players with the platform to launch them into high-end competition.
MJT also helps families decide which college would be the right choice to make, if scholarship offers come.
“We’ve hired on professionals to help you, as a family, understand the process of getting to U.S. and Canadian colleges.
We’re part of the Canadian Golf Coaches Association; they’re mandate is to keep Canadian golfers in Canada so we direct all our press clippings, all our results to al the golf coaches in Canada.”
Last year the MJT gave out just over $50,000 in scholarships and international funding for kids to play certain, higher profile events in order to be noticed by college coaches.
“We look at this as the kids support us so what else can we give them,” said Matson of these rewards. “We look at it as every one of us has had a great experience in golf as a PGA professional. Every one of us has gone away and played all over the world because of golf so it’s our turn to give back.”
Matson noted each province has slightly different registration numbers with some events being more popular than others for a couple of reasons including location and venue.
“In Alberta we average about 65 to 70 players per event. There are definitely bigger events though, like Paradise Canyon (in Lethbridge) where they have around 100 players.”
One area of inclusion the MJT is working on is that of female participation. Despite what they offer this organization, like others, is having trouble attracting, and then keeping girls involved.
“We struggle to get girls out like everyone else,” Matson noted, although on this day at The Links at Spruce Grove, there were over a dozen females set to tee off.
“This is a unique field; 16 top (female) players are here. This event is ranked by Golf Alberta which attracts the girls. If they’re a good player there are so many obligations on their time already.
“We talk about it (drawing more girls in). Golf Canada talks about it. Alberta Golf talks about it but I’m not sure we have any great ideas that are coming through the pipeline right now.”
So the MJT will just keep doing what they’re doing, Matson said in closing, providing great opportunities for good young golfers of both sexes to climb the ladder toward the goal of playing college golf and maybe, just like a youngster named Tiger did so long ago, something beyond that thanks to the head start they got through a strong junior tournament organization.
Oh, and how good are these kids? Well, consider this - Tyler Saunders won the event at The Links at Spruce Grove by firing a final round 67 on the par 72 layout and he was three over par on his last four holes.
And that’s the type of talent the Maple Leaf Junior Tour is looking to develop.
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta.
By Gord Montgomery
Gord Montgomery is a retired sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He is now in his ninth year of writing for Inside Golf. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also on Twitter at @gordinsidegolf and on Instagram at @gordinsidegolf2.
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