Alberta Set to Host Two National EventsWritten by John Gordon
Alberta Set to Host Two National Events
When competitors in this year’s Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship and Canadian Junior Girls Championship arrive in Alberta, they will not only be playing for history, they will be playing on it.
Red Deer Golf and Country Club plays host to the Amateur from July 23 to 26 and Lethbridge Country Club welcomes the Junior Girls the following week, July 30-Aug. 2.
The Amateur, first played in 1901, boasts an impressive list of champions with World Golf Hall of Fame member Marlene Stewart Streit topping the list. Other winners include Canadian Golf Hall of Fame members Jocelyn Bourassa, Ada Mackenzie, Dawn-Coe Jones, Alberta’s own Marilyn O’Connor, and several others. Brooke Henderson won the Amateur in 2013 prior to embarking on a phenomenal pro career on the LPGA Tour.
While the Junior Girls Championship is comparatively young, dating back “only” to 1955, its roster of winners also includes some of our finest female golfers such as Sandra Post who won the title in three consecutive years: 1964, 1965 and 1966. Unbelievably, her accomplishment was outshone by Heather Kuzmich who won four straight from 1981 through 1984. Henderson won it in 2012 and other Canadian girls who went on to the pro ranks with a Junior Girls victory on their resume include Maddie Szeryk, Maude-Aimee Leblanc, and Alena Sharp among others.
Like the championships themselves, this year’s venues have impressive histories of their own.
Red Deer G&CC can trace its roots (literally) to a rudimentary six holes laid out on leased land in 1919 before moving to its current location in 1922. Similarly, Lethbridge CC was founded in 1913 before moving permanently in the mid-1920s. Each has welcomed prestigious professional and amateur events throughout the years.
Photo: Red Deer Golf and Country Club
In fact, says Brian Huculak, General Manager and PGA of Canada Executive Professional at Lethbridge CC, it was the gratifying experience of playing host to the 2012 Canadian Women’s Amateur that motivated his club to invite another national championship. Current LPGA star Ariya Jutanugarn, then 16, was the winner.
“It was a great experience,” he says. “Everyone from the players to the spectators to our members enjoyed it thoroughly. That’s why we reached out to Golf Canada for another tournament.”
Photo: Lethbridge Country Club
Don McFarlane, General Manager and PGA of Canada Executive Professional at Red Deer G&CC, says his club eagerly anticipates welcoming the Women’s Amateur for a number of reasons. The club loved hosting the Alberta Ladies Amateur a couple of years ago, for one. Showcasing their historic, beautiful and challenging golf course is another, but there is a more altruistic motive, he says.
“It’s a matter of giving back to grow the game,” says McFarlane. “In our opinion, every club is obligated to help in any way they can, so when we host any event, we feel we are doing just that. It’s not just about hosting a tournament. It’s about doing our part for the game.”
Huculak agrees, having seen promising signs of growing interest among girls and women recently. “It was tough there for a while, but we’re seeing an improvement.”
His observation is reflected by recent research by the World Golf Foundation which reports that the percentage of junior golfers who are female has doubled over the past 10 years. This increase is due to a number of factors including not only more focus on girls by forward-thinking golf facilities, but provincial and national initiatives such as Golf Canada’s Girls Club, part of the Future Links program.
“Girls Club was designed to provide a welcoming atmosphere in which girls can excel at developing their skills and interest in the sport with their female peers,” says Golf Canada. “Developed for girls ages seven to 18, Girls Club hopes to bridge the gap between the high number of boys playing golf in comparison to girls.”
Then, according to Jeff Thompson, Golf Canada’s Chief Sport Officer, there’s the ‘Brooke Effect’.
“Certainly, from a participation standpoint, we are seeing a bump in girls interested in golf in our country because of the Brooke Henderson factor and I am sure that will surge as she continues to succeed on the LPGA Tour,” says Thompson.
So, if the trend of more girls taking up the game continues, we can thank forward-thinking clubs such as Red Deer and Lethbridge, along with progressive initiatives from Alberta Golf and Golf Canada. But golf can’t progress with just them “growing the game.” It will take a commitment from everyone who cares about the future of the game.
Alberta Set to Host Two National Events
This article was originally published in the 2019 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.