Junior golfers participating in the 2nd Annual BMO Youth Tour, held at Rainbow Ridge Golf Tournament on the morning of Saturday, September 29th, are all smiles after a couple of fun hours on the course. photos by Giselle Aiabens

MANITOWANING—Rainbow Ridge Golf Course  was the site of an unusual golf tournament this past weekend. There were no big trophies handed out, no big cash prize payouts, there wasn’t even score keeping, but the participants didn’t seem to mind at all and, in fact, had quite a bit of fun.

The tournament held on the morning of Saturday, September 29 was the 2nd Annual BMO Youth Tour for junior golfers five to 13 years of age.

Heather Turner, assistant branch manager for the Gore Bay BMO branch and one of the organizers of the event explained that she, along with several other BMO employees from the Mindemoya, Little Current and Manitowaning branches, started the Annual BMO Youth Tour last year after they saw there was a need for an Island-wide event which could bring together youth from communities across the Island in a fun way.

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Ms. Turner says the tournament goal is “strictly about exposure to the game of golf and for the kids to come together to have fun.” In fact, she says that the “kids weren’t even keeping score” but rather were just “out hitting the ball, having fun, and learning about the game.”

In recognition of the fact that some of the junior golfers may not have ever golfed before, there was lots of teaching, coaching and pairing up newer golfers with those who have previous experience, often from different towns, which was one of the reasons why organizers began this annual tournament—to integrate youth across different Island communities.

As sponsors of the event, BMO provided some event staffing and swag bags filled with goodies that any kid would love, including gummy bears, lollipops, sunglasses, headphones, a boomerang, golf tees and a golf ball for all registered golfers. After the golfing was done, the junior golfers enjoyed a lunch of hot dogs and french fries and, while there were no trophies, there were door prizes to keep things exciting.

With 24 registered golfers this year, Ms. Turner notes that the registration numbers are up from last year and expects that it will continue to grow as the tour becomes better known. Organizers are having fun with the event and would like to continue to run the tournament on an annual basis, in September, rotating the host course to include Brookwood Brae Golf Course in Mindemoya and Manitoulin Island Golf Course in Gore Bay.

Ms. Turner and the rest of the organizing team say they want to “encourage kids to come out to the tour to get exposed to the game and, even if they don’t want to play, take the opportunity to get out and have some fun while meeting other kids.”

For parents who are interested in registering their children, Ms. Turner advises keeping an eye out for notices, which are posted on local community boards and distributed to all students through their schools in early September.

John Dubé, manager for Rainbow Ridge Golf Course and Indoor Golf Academy,  says that he “was excited to have a corporate sponsor that was interested in youth sports development.” 

Mr. Dubé explains that for the past six years, Rainbow Ridge has been working on junior programming and focusing on the Golf Canada program and Future Links’ Golf in Schools program. He believes that “golf can be used as a tool to teach kids certain values in life including good behaviour, honesty, etiquette, team play and how to interact and socialize with others.”

He also acknowledges that, as potential future clients, it’s smart business to focus on junior golfers, and youth in general. He adds that it’s “important to keep doing these types of events and programs not just for the health of our business but also for the health of the industry itself, as well as the health of our kids” and says that Rainbow Ridge “will continue supporting these types of events and programs as best as we can.”

As for the BMO Youth Tour, Mr. Dubé explains “it wasn’t really about scores today, it was more about just getting the kids out on the golf course and swinging a club to see if they’re interested in golf.” He says the youth tour also provides an opportunity for “parents to be involved as well and to watch their kids excel or struggle with it.” He highlights that “there aren’t that many sports that you can have three or four generations of family members playing together.” In fact, on this day, there were grandmothers and grandfathers, as well as mothers and fathers out on the course together.

One of the fathers on the course was Don Symons of Mindemoya, who coached his two sons, six-and-a-half-year-old Oliver Symons and five-year-old Everest Symons, through the course. The elder Symons explains that he and his family just moved to the Island this past July and thought playing in the tour would be a fun way to explore new places and new things to do on the Island.

Oliver, now a two-time golf player, was happy to chat about the tournament. In an amusing little story, he explains that what he likes most about golf tournaments is “riding in the golf cart,” in large part because of what he sees as––judging by his laughter––a funny incident in which Everest “just fell right out” of the cart and was “flopping on the ground.” Everest, who was not hurt in the incident, chimes in excitedly that that’s why he now “gets tied down” in the golf cart. This was the first tournament for the Symons boys and they both say they are looking forward to playing in future tournaments.

Eight-year-old Patience Manitowabi of Wiikwemkoong, also a first-time tournament player, had a lot of fun as well and said what she liked most about the game was that “you have fun and try to go the furthest” when hitting the golf ball. She especially liked it when her golf ball went far and she “almost sunk the ball in the hole.” 

Ms. Turner reports that since the first annual BMO Youth Tour took place last year, “some kids have continued playing golf and taken up the junior programs at their local golf courses.” Perhaps next time you’re out on the course you’ll meet up with Patience Manitowabi, one of the Symons boys or any number of the other junior golfers who participated in this year’s tournament.

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