Let the Juniors Play | Iain Carter

Let the Juniors Play | Iain Carter

We have enjoyed a stellar year of golf; Tiger Woods winning the Masters, a brilliant Pebble Beach US Open, Shane Lowry’s majestic Open triumph at Portrush and a stunning European win at the Solheim Cup. 

It would be nice to think this has inspired people of all ages to give golf a go and especially younger players.  

After all, iconic moments can breed champions. It was watching Jack Nicklaus win the Masters that promoted Sir Nick Faldo, Britain’s most successful golfer of the modern era, to pick up a club in the first place.

And it would be lovely to think that anyone taking up golf for the first time would be made to feel welcome to the game. Sadly we know that is not always the case, but it does feel that golf has taken plenty of encouraging steps in recent times. 

Then again, we have just had a week of social media traffic centred around the subject of whether juniors should be allowed to enter adult club competitions. 

There are those who feel that it is not fair for youngsters on a fast track of improvement to compete against stagnant oldies. Juniors can make rapid advances and benefit from what quickly become obsoletely high handicaps. 

“Well, we stand no chance,” is a frequent complaint that accompanies a young player claiming a trophy with a net 62. Mumbles and grumbles follow, committees become involved and juniors are barred from comps until they reach a low enough handicap.

And with that, golf takes a giant step backwards. Thankfully Faldo was undeterred, despite recounting on Twitter his experience at Welwyn Garden City back in the day. 

“In 1973 I played in the WGC weekend monthly medal and won it…I was promptly disqualified because I’d tee’d off at 1045 and juniors weren’t allowed on the course till 11am! So why change now 47 years later?!?!?” the six times major winner tweeted.

A couple of thoughts on this: Such attitudes do golf no favours and over and above that, Sir Nick can still remember winning a monthly medal!

In and among all those Masters victories, Open triumphs, European and PGA Tour wins - Faldo still remembers winning a club competition!

That tells us so much. Winning at whatever level matters, especially to the younger generation. 

Personally speaking, my only honours board mention of my life came when I was fifteen. It was the Clark Cups No2, Cosby Golf Club, Leicestershire and I won with a net 66.  I still remember it fondly, a day that helped cement a lifelong relationship with the game.

Of more significance came 15 year old Josh Hill’s recent triumph among the adults of the Mena Tour in the UAE. Here was compelling evidence that you are never too young to compete.

The England boys squad player became the youngest winner of a tournament counting towards the official world rankings with his two shot triumph at the Al Ain Open.

He carded an eight under par 62 to replace Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa as the youngest winner of a properly recognised event.

Hill, who is based in Dubai, was 15 years, six months and 27 days old and came from three shots back to secure a brilliant win.

It was a result that had Faldo tweeting again: “Great playing Josh…what’s next for you?”

Who knows? Could this be the start of a glorious career - maybe, but there are no guarantees.

The only certainty is that this young lad is taking his chances at a very early age and you can only do that if the opportunities exist.

And, surely, that is vital for the prosperity of golf. Start treating juniors as the most important members of the club, do not put barriers in their way, encourage them and make them feel welcome. 

Given the golf we have witnessed this year there should be a fair few around, inspired to play the game. So let them do it.

This should not be a hard decision. After all, the game’s future depends on them.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.