Connecting the Circle of Support
Developing golfers is a team effort.
The 2014 success of Team Canada athletes such as Brooke Henderson, Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith was heralded this summer as a sign of rising depth in Canadian golf. Depth of talent isn’t just about success at the highest level of competition; it’s the end result of a systematic approach to player development that begins by identifying potential talent at a young age.
Player development is about connecting the circle of support – a model centred on athletes and parents that is supported at the club level by trained PGA of Canada coaches. Connecting the circle is why there’s reason to be excited about the rise of National Junior Golf Development Centres (NJGDC) in communities across Canada. A joint initiative between Golf Canada, the PGA of Canada and the provincial golf associations, NJGDCs offer high potential juniors and their parents a year-round facility to meet their golf developmental needs from the first time they touch a club all the way through to competitive golf.
In 2015, there were 30 certified NJGDCs in nine provinces, with a goal to have one established in every community. Development centres are not a new concept for sport. Think of soccer clubs or swim clubs – the successful ones offer programming to take participants from their first introduction to the sport through to competitive opportunities with appropriate access, instruction or coaching along the way. NJGDCs are a place for juniors aged 5-18 to learn and develop together as golfers while pursuing either a competitive or recreational stream. The centres act as a national network for talent identification and performance tracking as well as a delivery channel for junior golf programs such as CN Future Links. It’s a natural funnel through which Golf Canada, the PGA of Canada and the provinces can direct kids who are introduced to the game through Golf in Schools and other junior activities to best-in-class junior development facilities in their communities. Strengthening the depth of junior players also increases the likelihood that they might participate in club events or championships.
A young golfer who is excited about the game and wants to improve will want to play more often. That means more rounds at the golf course and a greater connection between the player and his or her family to the golf facility. Regardless of whether a golfer advances to a provincial or national team, we are establishing a network of clubs across Canada with more eager and engaged players and parents. The centres are focused on quality golf experiences by offering families a “one stop shop” to develop their skills and golfing interests. Equipped with the appropriate facilities, NJGDCs have committed resources towards programming as well as instruction and coaching for those golfers interested in a competitive stream as well as those practicing for a more recreational approach to the sport. Every budding talent starts somewhere and there’s reason to be excited about the depth of talent coming up in Canadian golf. By offering the right mix of skill enhancement, enthusiasm, instruction and mentorship, National Junior Golf Development Centres are bringing player development full circle.