What it means to be an Alberta Juniors volunteerWritten by Amanda Ducheminsky
To think, by a fluke, Alberta Golf was able to recruit, now over 10-year volunteer, Chris Leach. The 2017 Alberta Junior & Juvenile Tournament Chair, was originally looking to help-out at the CP Women’s Open when it came to the Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club. Registering through the wrong website, Alberta Golf staff jumped on the chance to get Leach involved. A staff member did end up redirecting him to the correct event, but that accident has been nothing but positive for the long-term bantam and juniors volunteer.
“It’s nice to be out on a course, working with some amazing people from the staff from Alberta Golf to the host club representatives. There’s never been a bad experience. I mean it’s fun, it’s rewarding. They are long days, and everyone is exhausted by the end, but we get up and we do it again the very next morning.”
When Leach first got started with Alberta Golf, he didn’t know what his role would be or what it eventually would come to mean to him. Soon, he was able to find what he loved by learning about all of the tournament aspects available.
“I guess when I first started with Alberta Golf, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I kind of dabbled in everything and took on any kind of role. I participated in a variety of rules seminars that there were; took my Level 2 online; went and learned how to do course rating and learned about handicapping. I think during all of that, I was able to get involved in one of the junior tournaments. That’s kind of where I really found my passion. To see some of the kids develop over the years, coming through the Bantam, Junior and Juvenile events, it’s kind of incredible to watch them progress. Having an 11-year-old son of my own, it’s always been enjoyable for me to work with the kids.”
Leach has even been able to watch Alberta juniors compete up close on a national stage.
“I was fortunate enough to take down, Matt Williams and Tyler Saunders, for the Junior America’s Cup, for two years in a row. It was really interesting to see the dynamics, how they trained, how they practiced and how they put that into competition play.”
He says the experience of being around the young athletes over the years has been humbling. Having waited to pick up his first club at 27, the tournaments have also acted as teaching moments.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch the kids come in with a score of like 78 and be upset. But you kind of reflect on where your game is compared with where they are at. You learn so much watching them practice and get ready for the tournaments. It certainly has helped me and my personal game. It has reminded me to work on what I need to focus on, such as if I’m struggling with putting or bunker play. Having been out at some of these tournaments with some great coaches too, and just watching what they do with kids, has benefited me personally. It’s great to see all aspects of the game, and really what we can do with it in the future.”
Leach says that seeing the players from the beginning never gets old.
“It’s incredible to see the caliber of golf that we see at these junior tournaments, and then to see what professional play is like. You can see that the kids, some of them one day, will be on those tours which is amazing.”
As a past LPGA and current Shaw Charity Classic volunteer, he has worked with players that have moved up the ranks, but he says that helping at places like the Coal Creek Golf Resort this week are still some of the most inspiring times.
“As far as volunteering, nothing tops working with the kids. These junior tournaments are so rewarding. The kids are out here, they are having fun, they’re giving it their all. There were some high scores yesterday, as frustrating as it can be for them, they’re still here this morning, and they’re going to try to be better. That’s the thing I enjoy the most is learning to never give up. There is always tomorrow. There is always more to come. As bad as yesterday or today may be, there is always tomorrow.”
He says, that even though he had to travel quite far to attend the 2017 Alberta Juniors, exploring new host courses has really opened his eyes as to what’s out there.
“This has probably been the furthest I’ve been away from home to travel in the last few years for a junior tournament, but it’s definitely worth exploring the province and everything there is to offer. I’ve seen some incredible courses in the province that I didn’t even know existed. The course that we are at now, Coal Creek, I mean it’s got to be a hidden gem within the province. Some of the courses I’ve seen, that are over 10 years old, don’t look as good as this course does after having been only open for five.”
Having been involved with the juniors for so long, Leach says that he hopes to continue to see what’s next for the future of youth golf within the province.
“I would love to see more tournament opportunities for the kids. A lot of them have to travel far distances and it can be a big expense. It would be really nice, especially for the girls, to be able to get more involved. If there were more competitive opportunities where they could continue to push themselves and grow, it could only help take their game to that next level.”
As the conversation emerges, Chris reflects on the past 10 years with Alberta Golf and the responsibilities he will proudly continue to carry out.
“To me Alberta Golf feels like home. The last few years we’ve seen some staff changes; changes kind of all around. The good thing is that it seems that every tournament I go to, everyone seems to get better than the last – regardless of which volunteers are here, or which staffers are here. I think we’ve managed to take tournament play from where it used to be and make it better every single time.”
To learn more about how you can get involved as an Alberta Golf volunteer and to fill out an inquiry please visit Volunteer Opportunities.