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Use city courses as golf schools?

 The Chronicle Journal, Thunder Bay, April 30, 2011

There is much debate regarding the city-owned golf courses and how to generate enough income to maintain their viability. Perhaps if we thought more of our future and less of the here and now, we might concentrate on how to whet the interest and appetite of current and future generations.

Perhaps the city might consider restructuring the golf experience to include schools and school-age children. ...even offer some used golf clubs for kids to use when they come to play for really cheap or even free. By offering kids healthy alternatives where they are part of something wholesome, we encourage positive healthy behaviour where pride and self-respect are the rewards as opposed to some impressionable youth opting for membership in gangs, using drugs and alcohol and acting out violently towards others, ultimately costing everyone.

Think about it. If we get kids involved now in something that does not have an optimum age limit for participation such as football, hockey, soccer, etc., where you’ve pretty much finished your career by the age of 40, oftentimes bruised and broken, golf takes people into their 70s and beyond. Golf does not play havoc with joints, tendons, muscles and spinal cords. Walking nine holes takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours of fresh air and physical fitness. Golf teaches our youth respect and tolerance; it encourages networking and team building. As for the cost, if the prices were lowered to where they were reasonable enough so all kids could afford to participate, this would be a start. Group golf rates for classroom participation could also be considered.

There is no reason a classroom shouldn’t be able to book a specific date once a week, for an afternoon, to teach kids the sport of golf. Schools are taxpayer-funded and so are our golf courses so they should be able to work in tandem.

I’m sure there are many seasoned golfers in our city who would be prepared to volunteer their time to teach our young people the basics. Something else to consider would be an inexpensive daily group rate for a family so they would have the opportunity to play together where the parent doesn’t just sit on the sidelines and watch. 

As for equipment? Pretty darn cheap when you consider a set of golf clubs for kids can be purchased for under $100. Add shoes to that and for well under $200 for the whole package, a kid can golf for far less than it costs to outfit him or her for hockey or football.Perhaps service clubs and local businesses could get together to help our less-privileged kids obtain equipment — maybe even sponsor a team.Once more kids become involved and others begin to grow out of their basic equipment something like a golf-swap could be organized to entice more kids to become involved for even less expense. As we are all taxpayers and help support these golf courses, perhaps some ideas and ingenuity on how to maintain them so they at least break even is something we can offer our city planners and together take pride in.

I think that lowering prices and including of all of our citizens, now and for the future, might be a way to start.Let’s put our heads together and rather than opting to destroy what we already have, concentrate on ways to build on the courses and make them viable so they’re there for future generations. However, if our city seeks no other alternative but to close or sell off one or more of its golf courses, perhaps it might consider discussing some ideas with the various boards of education first, to see if they might be able to utilize one for the specific purpose of teaching young people how to golf. There are junior golf programs throughout Canada and the U.S. already up and running that I’m sure would be more than happy to help Thunder Bay get started. We have some excellent young talent here and some great facilities. Let’s not waste them.

Diana Coulombe,   Thunder Bay


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