Interest in golf in Canada is skyrocketing. Play is up, memberships are up and junior programs are being expanded.
That was not the future Adam Charles, manager of the Kingsville golf club’s pro shop, envisioned back in March and April. The club was receiving a lot of telephone calls and emails, but many of those calls and emails were from tournament organizers looking to cancel.
But a chat with a colleague out west gave Charles a slight sliver of hope.
“One guy I spoke to said get ready for the busiest year you’ve ever had,” Charles said. “At that point things were really quiet, it was really hard to imagine. But he was right.”
As of July 31, play by members, guests and green fee players was up 30 per cent from last year, making up for much of the revenue loss from one of the club’s biggest cash generators, tournaments.
In 2002, in the middle of the Tiger Woods-inspired golf boom, Kingsville had 833 members. It dropped a small amount in subsequent years, then the 2009 recession hit. Gas prices went through the roof. Attrition took its toll. Memberships fell to 530.
“We knew it was bad but we weren’t paranoid because we had a membership base. We were concerned and we knew it was going to be tough, but we also knew we were going to survive,” said club general manager Doug Quick. Since 2016, the club has been aggressively promoting its sliding scale of membership fees which encouraged young adults to join.
Quick said he expected more than 100 golfers will be added to the club’s membership rolls by 2021 through the club’s incentive programs. People, quite simply, are looking for things to do.
So it’s a really good opportunity for us to get the kids interested and give them a solid environment to learn and hopefully playing golf here in Kingsville – even when other sports start back up.
That increase should bring total membership to well over 700. The club ranks have also been bolstered by the recent influx of Toronto retirees. The club has close to 200 kids enrolled in its junior golf programs.
The reason for the surge is simple.
“It was mainly due to the fact they couldn’t play the other sports because of COVID,” said Alyssa Getty, an apprentice pro who is running the junior program.
“So it’s a really good opportunity for us to get the kids interested and give them a solid environment to learn and hopefully playing golf here in Kingsville – even when other sports start back up.”
Quick said a vibrant junior program is key for the long-term success of any golf club.
Kingsville has produced a string of top-notch amateur golfers – Richard Scott, Laura Henderson and Cheryl Damphouse – and Quick said the club’s promotion of junior golf is a key reason.
“They have pretty liberal access to the tee. That’s the way it’s been since I was a kid. The board is exceptionally supportive and so are the members,” he said.
Dr. Jim Maytham, a club member, said it’s gratifying that so many young people are taking up the game. “It’s really good to see all the young people get out and try golf, getting some exercise and realizing right now that golf is one of the safest exercises they can do.”
Irish Open draws record crowd
The Irish Open, one of the oldest tournaments at the Kingsville golf club, had its largest turnout ever on Aug. 29.
More than 175 golfers played and organizer Johnny Burke said he was relieved and overjoyed.
“The guys wanted to get out. This is the first real tournament they’ve played in all year,” Burke said.
“They come every year but this year they wanted to come from other clubs because they had cancelled their tournaments. They wanted to play and they showed up in droves.”
Tournament winners were: Chris Hicks, overall low gross; Yo Ismial, overall low net; and Les Shipp, overall low senior.