by Jordan Parker, Sport Quarterly contributor
When the Nova Scotia Golf Association looked at the accessibility of the sport in the area, they soon realized there was a gap to fill.
There were plenty of intermediate tournaments, but beginners to the game just didn’t have the same support.
“We saw that, and we assessed ways to get a competitive base in junior golf. There just wasn’t much for entry-level competition,” said Jason Lohnes, executive director of the NSGA.
“We saw junior invitationals disappear due to the pandemic, and we saw a way to rejuvenate these things. We went back to clubs who used to do it and asked them to bring them back.”
That was how the Junior Invitational Tour began this year, which saw 170 players aged 11-19 participating in 12 events province-wide.
“We were just really happy to have something people could get involved in. We saw some clubs who had continued junior invitationals, and they were well-oiled machines. They didn’t need much help from us,” he said.
“Then there were others who’d never done it. They needed guidance, a bit of a budget, some marketing juice and our sponsorship connections to see results.”
The Invitational comes from the Nova Scotia Golf Association’s mission to provide “a low-cost, one-day competition” for Nova Scotia junior golfers, regardless of level or age. It allowed younger golfers to play on courses all over the province, and during 2023 there were more than 500 participants.
“This has just been a fabulous thing for the sport, the area and the younger golfers getting involved. It really just grew from the energy of the kids and parents,” she said.
Lohnes says it’s amazing to see people come together and rally around sports, and the low-cost entries make things easier.
“The community aspect really fuels the fire here. We get to see friendship and community develop just like it does in other sports. We understand the need for the social aspect in sport, and it’s nice to bring something that’s been missing,” he said.
There were nine events in 2023 and 17 events are planned for an expanded 2024.
“We have all but three dates confirmed and it’ll help families plan their vacations. We want to build the pieces up, look at the survey from this year that we distributed, and see what we can do,” said Wilson.
The association is excited to see the tournament become a bigger event and for it to serve even more people.
“There’s a walk-before-you-run approach at play here, and we want this to be a success. We don’t want to disrupt what’s already going on, but are more than willing to add and support where we can. We know this concept can just become bigger and better.”