President of Golf NWT Quinn Groenheyde is on a mission to raise the sport’s profile in the territory and he’s going to use the community’s youth to do it.
“It’s a great sport for kids,” he told The Hub at a clinic hosted by the Hay River Golf Club July 28. “You don’t have to have played any other sports first. Actually, it’s much easier to coach someone with little experience because they have nothing to unlearn.”
Groenheyde said the clinics held this summer are geared towards identifying and developing talent for the next cycle of the Western Canada Games and then the subsequent Canada Summer Games. Golf NWT is sending several athletes to Sherbrooke, Que., to compete in this year’s events, he added proudly.
Hay River’s clinic consisted of two 12-year-old prospects in the morning, Cara Orr and Zack Horton, but Groenheyde expected more adults to show up for the second half of the day.
“I’ve only been golfing a few days,” said Orr. “Today I learned not to use your wrist while putting.”
Her fellow-student for the morning, Horton, had far more experience having spent many mornings out on the course with his uncle and other family members.
“I like to come out here in the morning and play a round with my uncle, my dad, and sometimes my granddad,” he said. “It’s nice when nobody is here and it’s quiet.”
Practised as Horton was, however, he said he really appreciated having a professional such as Cole Marshall – the assistant pro at the Yellowknife Golf Club and vice president of Golf NWT – down to Hay River to help him perfect his technique.
“I learned to put the club forward while chipping,” Horton said.
While Groenheyde would have liked to see more young people out on the greens, he admitted that golf is a relatively new territorial sport. Golf NWT was formalized about four years ago. He said the organization still has some work to do and next year it would be better prepared to get out to the Northwest Territories’ four main golf courses – Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, and Hay River – to offer clinics for youth and adults alike earlier in the season.
“Our goal is to have them once a summer at the four main courses,” he said. “We’re rotating the NWT Championship between the clubs and we’re trying to get all the courses rated and sloped next year as well.”
This last means the NWT golf courses would be surveyed by Golf Canada officials and have their terrains entered into a standardized scoring system to allow for more accurate measurement of skill.
Already Groenheyde has made great strides in getting Northern golfers recognized on the Canadian field, securing the spots in the Canadian Amateur Championships for NWT players this year. The unprecedented qualifier will be held in Yellowknife over the August long weekend. Groenheyde was also keen to identify and develop potential prospects for future junior games for the next three- to four-year cycle.
While Horton said he would be game to compete, Orr had reservations.
“I really like golf,” she said. “But I think I’ll wait until I’m in middle school to decide if I want to do it seriously or not.”
— Sarah Ladik