HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The Ottawa Valley Golf Association wants young girls to tee it up for the first time over the next three months at a prestigious west-end golf club.
In an attempt to attract more girls to the popular summer game, the regional golf organization has created the OVGA Girls’ Golf League at The Marshes Golf Club.
The OVGA calls its latest golf participation project, which is dedicated to girls ages 12 through 18, a casual league, which will focus on “the enjoyment of the game in a friendly environment.”
Interested pre-teen and teenage girls throughout the OVGA region can join the league by paying a one-time $20 membership registration fee and receive a hat, tees and a sleeve of balls.
The girls can develop their golf skills by playing a round every Sunday from June 4 through Aug. 21 at the Marchwood Golf Course, which is the executive, nine-hole, par-3 layout at The Marshes in Kanata. The first tee-off time is 1 p.m.
If the young golfers want to add a bonus after their golf introduction and see how the game is played at the highest level, the LPGA’s 2022 Canadian Pacific Women’s Open runs Aug. 22-28 at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.
The cost for each round in the OVGA Girls’ Golf League at The Marshes is only $10. Players can register at ovga.org and are welcome to attend a kick-off event May 29 at The Marshes, where there will be giveaways and a round of mini putt at the Blackbird putting course.
League organizers can provide an introduction to the basics of the game at The Marshes training facilities, showing players how to hold the clubs, set their stance and swing properly.
Radio personality Hot Flash Jenni will serve as the league’s ambassador. Jenni, who plans to book a tee time with the girls as often as she can, is married to former Marshes teaching pro Derek MacDonald, who is the Royal Ottawa Golf Club academy manager.
Like many youth amateur sports, golf has seen a decline or plateauing in the number of girls in their mid- to late-teen years playing the game.
Jim Davidson, the OVGA’s president of player development and junior tournaments, wants to see girls from team sports, like hockey for example, and high school students take a swing at the game.
“It’s all about participation. We want to get the girls to play the game. If we get 20 out, I’ll be happy,” said Davidson, who hopes to expand the league into the east end of Ottawa in 2023.
“We’ll start small. We may only get 10 to 20, but we’ll try to grow it. It’s a long-term project. Bring a friend and have fun.”
Players are asked to phone five days in advance to book their Sunday tee time. Davidson encourages the players to play with a friend or they can be paired with another golfer. Guidance, leadership and instruction is available during the league season.
Davidson doesn’t know how many girls play recreational or competitive golf in the region, but he would like to reverse a provincial trend of declining or plateauing numbers.
“All I know is the numbers are increasing on the boys’ tournament side, but not on the girls’ side,” he added. “Boys’ participation has increased by 25 per cent and the girls’ (participation) is flat.
“I’ll have 70 guys and six girls (for tournaments). It’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”
The OVGA offers a solid competitive junior program and there are nine players on its junior development team for 2022. Entering its sixth season, this season’s group includes three girls – Sophie Foulds of Royal Ottawa, Avery Nordman of The Canadian and Shinyao Zhang of Rivermead.
The 2022 Team Ontario squad includes Royal Ottawa’s Ashley Lafontaine, who is one of seven girls on the provincial team. Isaiah Ibit of the Greyhawk Golf Club is on the boys’ provincial squad.
The 2021 OVGA junior match play championship field attracted 12 girls for various age-group competitions.
In recent years, the OVGA has gone from a primary focus on its member clubs to also connecting with public players, who don’t have club memberships.
“We must reach out. It’s all about growing the game,” Davidson added.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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