For many years, Cambridge Junior Golfers has been helping shape the lives of youth on and off the course.
“When kids get involved in the program, they usually stay in the program for seven years,” said Peter Bolland, a board member of the CJG. "Once you get started, you tend to get hooked for life."
Beginning in the 1970s, the community organization aims to provide access to golf and make it affordable for everyone by fundraising and partnering with local golf courses and driving ranges.
"Junior golfers have the opportunity to enjoy the experience of golf, get lessons and so on, and the courses enjoy the traffic because the juniors are welcome to go by themselves, or bring their friends and family, and the courses know they're developing lifelong partners."
CJG started as a competitive program created by Jack and Joyce Leggatt, the parents of Galt native and professional golfer Ian Leggatt.
Bolland explains Ian himself started golfing in the program at Puslinch Lake when he was a junior.
“The Leggatts themselves helped to run a junior program out of Puslinch Lake golf course, and they were involved in coordinating competitive junior golf as well across the region, and had been doing so for decades,” he said.
During this time, Bolland said the Leggatts also coordinated Bingo funding, which helped to pay for the junior golf. They also organized junior club events, dropped off equipment and golf shoes to the juniors and sponsored junior golfers that were heading off on golf scholarships to college.
“They were able to support the junior golfers in any way they were going to succeed in golf.”
Since starting CJG, the Leggatts were involved for over 35 years. In the last 12 years, the organization has been run by a board of volunteers.
“Right now, we have a board of six parent volunteers,” said Bolland.
Bolland calls this a ‘fairly active board’ with volunteers involved in registering junior golfers, bookkeeping and record keeping, coordinating bingo coverage and making submissions for bingo licences and setting up arrangements with professional golfers and driving ranges.
For a $90 registration fee, youth ages eight to 18 will gain access to lessons from golf professionals, three golf courses, two driving ranges and can also invite friends and family to play with them at a discounted rate. Bolland mentions CJG works with Cambridge Golf Club, Puslinch Lake Golf Course and Savannah Golf Links.
While the program no longer hosts tournaments, Bolland mentions they will help cover tournament fees for CJG members.
“It’s really no longer a competitive program, it’s a program more about introducing the sport, people learning from professionals and developing skills through practice,” said Bolland.
After opening up the program for entry level players, Bolland mentions the organization has seen participation numbers go up. In 2021, the CJG saw almost 100 children register. This year, the number of participants is 93. While the registration for this season has ended, youth can be added to a waiting list for an open spot by going to cambridgejuniorgolfers.com.
Having his own kids go through CJG in the 90s, Bolland said his grandchildren now participate in the program.
“There’s probably a thousand of kids who have gone through the program, or know someone who has gone through the program and participated in golf because of that,” said Bolland. “I would venture to guess that a vast majority still play golf, and use the skills through business and life.”
Bolland said interest in golf has grown over the past few years, especially during the pandemic, as golf was one of few activities allowed to remain open. He also credits famous golfers, like Tiger Woods, and Canadian golfers Ian Leggatt and Corey Conners, who have also helped increase the popularity of the sport among youth.
“There’s so many other talented golf pros coming out of Southern Ontario, it absolutely inspires local talent,” said Bolland, “In the way Corey carries himself and is able to be in the hunt so often is an inspiration to all golfers, let alone southern Ontario golfers, let alone junior that are seeing that it’s possible to reach those levels in a summer sport from right here in southwestern Ontario.”