Steamboat’s golf courses team up to offer junior golf options
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a partnership rarely seen between competing courses, Haymaker Golf Course, Catamount Ranch and Club, Rollingstone Ranch and Steamboat Golf Club are joining forces to offer junior golf options this summer as a means to expand the sport among Yampa Valley youth.
Junior golfers of all levels can join the PGA Junior League, which introduces young golfers to a competitive atmosphere while teaching them more about the sport.
“We’re trying to give it a boost. We’ve got at least one or two professionals at each club in the valley that are combining their efforts to really step this up,” said Eric Bradley, director of golf at Catamount Ranch and Club. “We think this could be a great program moving forward, so we want to bring it up.”
Area golf courses have offered the PGA Junior League in the past, but those in charge are really pushing to increase participation and make the sport more accessible.
The PGA Junior League features a team, scramble style format and is open to golfers 17 and younger. Teams advance to state, regional and even national tournaments based on how well they do. The program costs $75, and there are scholarships available.
“It’s one of the better things the PGA’s done in a long time,” Haymaker Director of Golf Andrew Donner said.
Registration for the PGA Junior League is open and can be completed at PGAJrLeague.com.
Golf grew in the last year, with rounds played increasing by 13.9% over 2019, according to data collected by Golf Datatech. The previous notable increase was a 5.7% increase in 2012. Steamboat’s golf courses want to lean into that trend by offering as many programs as they can.
“Juniors, they’re the future of the game of golf,” Bradley said. “And golf has really taken off.”
Additionally, golfers who have more experience can try out for the Drive, Chip and Putt competition, which sends qualifiers to Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters Tournament is played every year. The competition is open to golfers ages 7 to 15, and the qualifying event will take place June 10 at Eagle Ranch Golf Course in Eagle.
Another option for junior golfers is the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado. Steamboat Golf Club and Haymaker are hosting back-to-back JGAC events May 31 and June 1, which are open to all ages. For more information, visit JuniorGolfColorado.org/tournament-schedules.
There is also the Junior City Championships, a three day tournament for golfers ages 9 to 14-plus. For $40, golfers get a round each at Steamboat Golf Club, Rollingstone Ranch and Haymaker from July 28 to 30.
Local John VanderBloemen, who has been a proponent for golf since the ’90s, helped found the nonprofit Steamboat Springs Junior Golf Association years ago. Every year, the SSJGA hosts a shootout to raise money to support junior and high school golf. The 18th annual Steamboat Shootout will take place June 7 at Catamount.
Initially, the nonprofit raised money to start a high school boys program, but now, they help fund junior golf in all its forms.
In 2015, the first year of the PGA Junior League, the SSJGA paid the fees for participants. The nonprofit continues to buy golf balls and apparel for the high school team when needed and funded the first two years of the high school girls golf team.
“We’re just a little piece of it,” VanderBloemen said. “We’re here to help support it. Those are the guys who are doing the work with the kids.”
Every golf course has offers weekly classes. Haymaker has Girls on the Green, a Ladies Night and a SNAG (Starting New at Golf) program for the smallest of perspective golfers ages 4 to 7. While numbers are slightly limited due to space and equipment, Donner is determined to find space for anyone who wants to play golf.
“I’m not turning away kids,” he said. “Kids are the growth of the game.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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