WHEATLAND – The Wheatland Golf Club reserved Monday morning for the first ever Junior Golf Championship. The group began arriving at 8:30 a.m. for their tee-times with parents, siblings and WHS varsity golfers donating their time to mentor and caddy.
On any given day you can drive past the golf course and see youngsters hitting balls on the range, cruising the course with their buddies in their parent’s carts, or playing a few holes with a family member.
This is not commonplace on many golf courses, but here in Wheatland the golf board and the majority of the club’s members relish in the fact that there is surge in youth golf participation in the small town. With that said, on many days it is simply too busy to have a young and inexperienced golfer slowing down the pace of play or letting faster players constantly play through. So, the really young or inexperienced golfers only get a few swings or putts here or there when they actually get out on the course.
For the past few years the parks and recreation junior golf clinic that takes place in June has had tremendous numbers, but there was never a culminating event for the kids. There has been discussion about running some type of junior golf event for the past few years, but unfortunately nothing has ever come to fruition.
“Platte County Parks and Recreation (PCPR) Director Steve Pollock and I decided that this should be the summer to make it happen,” said varsity Bulldog golf coach, Tony Nichols. “As an acting board member I brought up the idea of holding a junior tournament and the overwhelming response was an emphatic ‘Yes!’ In fact, we all unanimously agreed that we shut the course down and not charge a dime.”
The adults worked their magic and made it happen for the kids.
“With the help of our sponsors (PCPR, Laramie Peak Veterinary Associates-Brenda and Daryl Unrein, Touch of Color-Allie and Eric Eddington, and the Golf Board) the kids played and hit range balls, were provided a meal and drinks on the course, and awarded medals/trophies at no cost,” Nichols said. “Any first should be special and this tourney certainly was. On Monday morning, Aug. 15, the young golfers and their families had the course to themselves to make memories that will last a lifetime.
“Overall, we had 36 competitors and three age divisions. Each age group played from their own tee box with age-appropriate yardages. They were also allowed a caddie to help them navigate the course and teach important rules/etiquette of golf along the way.”
Caddies ranged from parents, grandparents, friends of family, or WHS golf team members. The signature moment of the tournament was watching the young golfers and their caddies approach their tee box for their designated tee time. Prior to teeing off, each golfer had their name announced to the gallery and received an ovation after hitting their shots.
“The most amazing thing was the majority of players airmailed their drives down the fairway and received another ovation,” Nichols said. “That was truly special. As each age group finished there was an awards ceremony recognizing the top three in each division. Once again, the top finishers received an ovation for their efforts. I wanted to make this event a special one where the kids want to come back year after year. From the kids’ mile-wide smiles to overwhelming positive parent feedback I think we started a tradition. In fact, I had one parent tell me his boy was asking when the next tournament was. I had another mom tell me her son was sharpening his skills in the backyard while her daughter was begging her dad to take her golfing. Next year will be here before you know it.”
Boys 7-9: 1st-Hayden Unrein, 2nd-Jameson Holtzclaw & 3rd- Holden Adams
Girls 7-9: 1st-Daylie Bickler, 2nd-Aspen Kiel & 3rd-Samantha Holt
Boys 10-12: 1st-Griffin Nichols, 2nd-Tripp Howard & 3rd-Bryden Sandlian
Girls 10-12: 1st-Jaylen Kaufman, 2nd-Allie Kiel & 3rd-Claire Whitney
Boys 13-14: 1st-Jacob Miller, 2nd-Tate Nichols & 3rd-Ace Keil
Girls 13-14: 1st-Haylee Nelson