The kids are coming from everywhere to play golf at Howlong.
So how does a quiet hamlet in the Murray Region, with a population of a little over 2500, manage to get around 120 children participating in its MyGolf Program?
Howlong Golf Resort General Manager Chris Rebbechi believes it's about letting kids start as soon as they show an interest, making sure it’s a fun environment, and having committed volunteers who are well trained and ready to help.
“The focus is on fun, we let kids come into the program who are as young as four."
The Club identified the need to be reaching out to children who had an interest in golf, and wanted to learn the fundamental skills of the game.
“It’s not just about the elite juniors,” Mr Rebbechi said. “We weren’t doing enough to get kids into golf.”
The program has been running for several years now, and it has turned into something the membership of Howlong is justifiably proud of.
“We started before the whole MyGolf program got going. The Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation gave us an award for club of the year when we began it,” he said.
Mr Rebbechi believes ensuring the MyGolf program can fit into the sports calendar and avoid clashes with other sporting programs is a key factor in its success.
“We try not to compete with Net-Set-Go, Auskick, Cricket, Hockey or any other junior programs,” he said.” So we run 12 one-hour clinics. Six before Christmas and six after.”
Mr Rebbechi credits the work of Howlong Junior Golf Coordinator Jan Wilson with the success of the program at Howlong and throughout the Murray district as well.
“Jan is amazing. She’s a non golfer but a super organised sports administrator. She’s rolled it out across the district and to all the other clubs as well,” he said. “She won the Golf Australia Coaches Recognition award in 2013; the first time the award was given to a coach who wasn’t a golfer.”
“Jan follows the guidelines really well. She makes sure every volunteer coach knows what they’re doing, so that the kids get a clear progression through the skills challenges.” Mr Rebbechi said.
The last MyGolf program at Howlong saw around 120 juniors participate. The final clinic was followed by a sausage sizzle and medal presentation. The advanced group of juniors who successfully completed the skills challenge received medals and certificates to progress to the Juniors on Course (JOC) program.
The next MyGolf program at Howlong Golf Club will begin in September 2016.