The timing of Monday’s announcement that Golf Canada was joining forces with the Golf Association of Canada to host the World Junior Girls’ Golf Championship beginning this year seemed perfect with the Olympics underway in Sochi.
“I’d like to say yes,” said Golf Canada CEO Scott Simmons when asked if that was done by design.
“We realized it would butt up against the Olympics. I don’t think we intentionally a little while ago thought to do this, but as we got closer to the finish line yes, obviously, it’s a great time for the world to celebrate sport. We’re very proud to make this announcement during that time frame,” he said.
Golf Canada had just concluded its annual general meeting in London, Ont., where Catriona Le May Doan, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in speed skating, had given a passionate keynote speech.
Simmons, in his opening remarks on Monday, talked about the importance of “heroes” in sport, so the Olympic-like fever seemed to fuel the announcement, which in truth was two years in the making, making the timing merely coincidental instead of planned.
As a matter of fact, Steve Carroll, former executive director of the PGA of Canada and now executive director of the GAO, gracefully acknowledged the contribution of his predecessor Dave Mills before Carroll recently arrived in his new position.
“I think it kicked into high gear here in late August when we started working with the Ministry (of Tourism, Culture and Sport) here in Ontario and from there, going to some of our other funding partners, but it’s certainly been a couple of years,” said Mike Kelly, the GAO’s manager of sport development.
You can read more about the event to be held on the Angus Glen North and South courses here. It appears to be an annual event for at least the next three years as it moves around Ontario.
“It has been something that’s been on our radar for some time in terms of doing an international analysis of what’s going on in the junior golf climate,” said Golf Canada’s chief sport officer Jeff Thompson.
“We felt it was really important for our player development program to be able to benchmark our top girls against the rest of the world and that it would be a great opportunity for Canada to take a leadership position and run an event like this,” he added.
With the competition open to players 18 years of age and under who aren’t playing college/university golf, it will offer an international event on home soil for standout Canadians such as Brooke Henderson, who will turn 17 just before the inaugural event.
It goes beyond that, according to Thompson, who called it a “festival of junior golf,” due to its various aspects.
Whether it grows the game or not is debatable, but certainly Golf Canada and the GAO do have existing junior players who will want to take partake in observing and taking part in clinics that will take place around the event.
With coaches from around the world present, organizers are also planning to hold coaching initiatives.
This year’s event will also used as a test run before golf in the Pan Am Games are played at Angus Glen next year.
The event will cover the expenses of the teams from 15 countries to get to Angus Glen and with 48 players participating in the actual competition, it will cost in the neighbourhood of $250,000, with Ontario kicking in half of that and other money available through a women’s fund available through the Golf Canada Foundation.
Sponsors will also be approached to help with the costs.
“We wanted to get the event off the ground,” said Thompson.
“We wanted to be able to demonstrate to people what the event is and the long-term plan is to have the event supported by sponsors,” he said.