By Golf Monthly
From transitioning from the junior to play with the ladies, we take a junior's view on the benefits that playing in adult competitions has brought. By Lucy Bamford
A Junior's View: Playing In Adult Competitions Stopped Me From Giving Up
Recently, Golf Monthly has looked into juniors playing in adult competitions after Ping voted to overturn a decision at its Lincolnshire Golf Club when its members voted to ban junior girls from competing in ladies competitions.
From A 'Junior's' perspective:
At the age of 10, I first started playing golf in the junior section at a local club before moving to play with the club's ladies section aged 13.
The interest is there. Girls do want to get into golf, evident by the 10 of us who would turn up early every Saturday morning for lessons.
Resistance of junior participation dwindles away this enthusiasm that most juniors start with - just wanting to hit a good ball.
It's no secret, junior golf does have a tendency to produce some fairly dodgy scoring, so I think it's imperative to learn how to count before you learn how to hit a ball.
Etiquette in my junior section was never a problem. We were taught the importance of the rules and respect for other players before we were allowed out on the course.
It is fundamental that effort is made at clubs to nurture their junior members thus inspiring a generation of rounded-players who will be more likely to maintain the attraction of golf to the generation that will come after them.
This in turn, hopefully promises future talent at the club, turning juniors into long-term members who, with distinction will represent the club in the future.
I know first-hand the benefits my transition from the juniors to the ladies had not just on my game but on my social confidence too.
If the adults didn't allow me to join them, I can't guarantee I'd still be playing the game today.
Should juniors be allowed to play in adult competitions?
Catriona Matthew, Solheim Cup-winning captain, said she finds it really 'sad that this is even a question' in a recent tweet.
For me, there were five girls playing in weekly junior competitions and as I had the lowest handicap at the time, I was never a part of their fourball.
That didn't bother me for the first six months but the culmination of this over a year and a lack of progression made me question my enjoyment of the game.
Many clubs may not have the luxury of a thriving junior section so allowing them to play with the adults is imperative to helping them develop as golfers and keep them coming back.
Speaking to the Ladies' captain at the time, she encouraged me to get my handicap down in order to play with the ladies.
I worked a whole year only to drop two shots off my handicap so I could play with the ladies - knowing that this was a fair handicap. I played consistently to it for that year, not winning any competitions.
Four years later, I have won multiple board competitions, have twice been an NAPGC national finalist at St Andrews and alongside two other ladies, we are the current Berkshire Ladies County Champions of their annual team competition.
In addition to this, my handicap has seen vast improvements, where I have been able to progress and hone my game with the confidence I have gained from playing with the ladies.
So much so, my handicap has been cut by 19 shots in as many months thus affirming my move from the juniors to be a success.
Juniors in the competitions
At the very least, a well-structured, supportive junior section should be found at every club, accepting the ambitions of their junior members whilst prioritising their enjoyment of the game.
Juniors' games are constantly developing, improving with every practice session. If this debate is a matter of handicap discretion- is our handicap system up to scratch?
Like other clubs, the club I play for recently allowed anyone with a handicap up to 54 to play in most competitions.
This may have brought controversy originally but it has opened the game to a diverse community of golfers.
Guan Tianlang became to youngest player, at the age of 14, to make the cut in PGA Tour History and play in the 2013 Masters - showing success is not restricted by age.
Will golf clubs recognise a need to change?
Golf clubs' survival is unknown and many will argue a junior has a right to play in whatever section they want as a paying member.
I do not count myself as 'junior'.
I play for the ladies section of my club and their acceptance of me is why I didn't quit the game.
My move was undoubtably the right decision for me but I can't say all clubs will be as willing to welcome juniors into their adult competitions.
Whilst although, to some people's disappointment, we can't yet buy them a pint- I hope that members can overlook this in order to help guide younger players.
We do not accept sexism or ageism anywhere else, so juniors should be welcomed by the entire club no matter their gender or age.
Adults, are you really that threatened by a 'bunch of kids'?
Are juniors allowed to play in adult competitions at your club? Let us know on our social media channels
For all the latest golf news, check the Golf Monthly website and follow our social media channels @golfmonthlymagazine on Facebook and @golfmonthly on Twitter and Instagram
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