NXTee Peewee Preview tournament draws young golfers to Puslinch Lake Golf Club
CAMBRIDGE — The Golf Association of Ontario (GAO) was pleased to present the inaugural NXTee Peewee Preview Tournament on May 2 at Puslinch Lake Golf Club, in Cambridge. The event was a wrap up to the NXTee Youth Golf Training pilot project, funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, which offered off-season training to golfers 12-years-old and under. Participants from the program along with other young players teed it up in a scramble format that gave them a chance to see the course that will host the GAO’s Inaugural Peewee Championship Aug. 6-7.
“This event was a big success!” Said Mike Kelly, GAO Managing Director of Sport. “We had lots of parents, kids, coaches and teams take part and even Corey Conners starting the players off the first tee. It was a great opportunity for the GAO to get parents and kids on the course together and an excellent way to engage and keep them in golf.”
Conners was no doubt a big hit as the players were able to take pictures and ask the 2015 Masters participant questions on what it is like to be a professional player.
In total, 58 players took part in the event. The participation numbers were a welcome sight to NXTee Head Coach Doug Lawrie. “What I really like is that we had participation from as far as Lindsay and London. We had great support from golf development centres, which shows the recognition of the importance of the NXTee program. Seeing the kids participate, who were part of the pilot project this winter, really is a testament for how this program can help kids move forwards and figure out what is next for them in the sport.”
Lawrie also stressed the importance of grassroots youth programming at the provincial level to work with national programs like CN Future Links in relation to Golf Canada’s Long Term Development Plan. “What has been shown is that provincial golf associations can use programs like NXTee because it helps kids find their way in golf and map out a pathway recreationally or competitively. I think it is a great way to get them involved in the sport at an early age.”
The event also served as a building block towards the GAO Peewee Championship by allowing potential competitors to get an early look at the course that will be hosting the event. “Puslinch Lake has hosted our Ontario Bantam Championship in the past, so it is a logical move to hold our Ontario Peewee Championship here,” added Kelly. “It will be a fun and fair set up for everybody and will showcase the talents of these young kids. We owe a big thank you to the Ontario Ministry of Culture Tourism and Sport who helped get the NXTee program off the ground, which will lead into our Peewee Championship.”
While the event put the emphasis on fun and working as a team, and did not award winners, some of the teams finished with impressive scores including -5 and -3 on the boys’ side and -1 and even-par on the girls’ side.
Vanessa Borovilos brings home memories for a lifetime from Drive, Chip and Putt Championship
By Brent Long
TORONTO, ON – If you have ever dreamed of what it might be like to try to make a 30-footer on No. 18 at Augusta National Golf Club with the Sunday pin placement for the Masters, you might want to ask Vanessa Borovilos for some advice.
The eight-year-old from Toronto has been there and done that, in last Sunday’s Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Along the way, she learned valuable lessons about never giving up and what it takes to become a champion.
Vanessa stroked her first putt on No. 18 at Augusta National to within two feet of the hole from 30 feet away. Then she edged her second put from the 15 foot marker to just under 18 inches from the cup to finish third out of 10 in the putting portion of the challenge for girls nine and under.
“There’s some pressure” she says, but it’s “an exciting feeling” more than it’s “scary” and that’s probably why the Grade 3 St. George’s Junior School student was able to move from last place to fourth overall in what she says was an “amazing experience.” “Everything was fun. I’m pleased with my overall performance and I really want to go back next year and win it,” she says with a big grin on her face. It’s the smile on her face and the look in her eyes that tell you this was an amazing journey.
It all started by travelling to and winning three qualifying tournament in the United States last summer with her father Dino, who acted as her caddy during the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. Check outwww.drivechipandputt.com for details on how to sign up for this summer’s qualifiers. For the national championship, Vanessa, her mom, dad and brother flew to Augusta and they stayed together at a Marriott hotel for four nights with a great pool, which is important to eight-year-olds!
She had two practice sessions at a nearby golf club with many of her other fellow competitors on the Saturday to get used to being outdoors again after a long winter of training indoors with coach Doug Lawrie from the Focus Golf Group in Burlington and many nights at a nearby indoor golf dome.
On Saturday night, the 80 Drive, Chip and Putt competitors attended a welcome reception and dinner in downtown Augusta. Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National GC and the Masters Tournament, expressed his pride in the accomplishments of the Drive, Chip and Putt finalists. “I truly hope you realize that you have already achieved what millions of others dreamed,” Payne said. “You’re the astronauts who walked on the moon, you’re the pitcher who tossed a no-hitter in the World Series, you’re the golfer who made a hole-in-one on the very first par 3 they ever played. But most importantly, you’re the kids who have been given this unbelievable opportunity because your parents love you, and they have made considerable sacrifices to give you this great opportunity.”
Vanessa was up bright and really early the next morning for a breakfast of waffles and waiting for the 9:15 am shuttle drive to take the nine-and-under girls to Augusta National. After the drive down Magnolia Lane, being warmly greeted and welcomed by Augusta members and an hour to warm up, it was off to the stadium at the practice range for the first event – just two balls for two drives!
“I hit my first drive really hard, but hooked it,” Vanessa said noting that it went out of bounds. She let up on her second drive to try and keep it in play, which she did, but it left her in last place among the 10 competitors.
“When we got to the chipping area, Vanessa was feeling good about being there, but not so good about the driving,” says her father Dino, who tried to lift her spirits. “Vanessa didn’t watch the other girls chip like she did with the driving. I really think she wanted to focus on what she wanted to do. I think she got into her zone.”
From 16 yards away from the hole, Vanessa’s first pitch rolled to within six feet of the cup and then she calmly knocked the second shot to three feet to finish second in chipping. “That felt really good,” Vanessa says, as she moved from 10thto seventh spot in the standings. She improved to fourth place overall with a third place finish in putting.
“I had a tremendous sense of pride seeing how she finished,” says coach Lawrie, the Head Coach for the GAO NXTee Youth Golf Program, who spent the winter months working with Vanessa on changes to her full swing. “I knew going in there was a good chance if she stuck a drive that she had a really good chance of winning the overall title because her chipping and putting is so good. To perform in that pressure environment on national TV with thousands of people watching and you only get two drives, two chips and two putts, I was absolutely amazed at her performance.”
Jayla Kucy from Camrose, AB finished T8 in the same division at Vanessa as she placed ninth in driving, seventh in chipping and fourth in pitching. The third Canadian in the championship, Ryan Blair from Oakbank, MB, finished ninth overall in the Boys 10-11 age group placing fifth in driving, ninth in chipping and eighth in putting.
The following day, Vanessa and her family returned to Augusta to watch Monday’s practice round. She smiles when talking about following her favourite golfer Rory McIlroy for six or seven holes, meeting Canadian amateur Corey Conners, getting her Masters hat signed by players like Ricky Fowler and JB Holmes and hopefully being able to play all 18 holes at Augusta one day – and not just the 18th green!
“It’s a beautiful place. I sure hope I’m back next year,” she says. And so does all of Canada!
BURLINGTON, ON – For an eight-year-old, Vanessa Borovilos has an impressive collection of trophies and medals, but the one that earned an invite to Augusta National Golf Club and the 2015 Masters is extra special.
The Grade 3 student from Toronto is one of three Canadians, among a total of 80 participants, 40 boys and 40 girls between the ages of seven and 15, who will tee it up in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship on the Sunday before the Masters at Augusta National.
“It’s pretty amazing to be going to the Masters. We’re flying in an airplane which should be fun and I’m really looking forward to the competition,” says Borovilos, who started working with Coach Doug Lawrie from Focus Golf Group in Burlington, last summer and will play and train out of Trafalgar Golf & Country Club in 2015.
She is proving to be a fierce little competitor as she made it through three stages of qualifying in Michigan to punch her ticket. “There’s a lot of standing around and waiting for this one, but to be going to Augusta during the Master and staying for a practice round it very cool,” says Borovilos, who started mini-putting at the age of two-and-a-half and had her first set of clubs by the time she was three.
Vanessa will not be the only Canadian competing in the girl’s 7 to 9 age division. Jayla Kucy from Camrose, AB won local qualifying in Dupont, Washington, a sub-regional event in Lacey, Washington, and then a regional final in Park City, Utah to qualify for the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. Ryan Blair from Oakbank, MB also won the regional finals of the boy’s 10 & 11 age bracket in Minneapolis, Minnesota to earn his spot in the championship.
Borovilos won two qualifiers at different courses in Michigan in June and August to advance to the regional final in September at Prestwick Village GC in Highland Michigan. There she won the overall title, with victories in chipping and putting – and she’s working on the driving for the Masters.
“It’s a lot of driving around to get to the different qualifiers. When you’re there, it’s a lot of waiting because they get two drives and you wait for everyone else, next it’s three chips and you wait again and finally they get three putts and that’s it, but for a trip to the Masters and to compete against the best from across the United States, it’s worth it and I think she’s going to have a great time at Augusta,” says her father Dino who will accompany Vanessa along with her mother and brother. There’s also a players’ dinner to attend at Augusta National the evening before the championship.
At only eight years of age, Vanessa is a seasoned competitor and traveller. She started playing the Canadian Junior Golf Association tours at age five against eight and nine-year-old, has played twice at US Kids World Championship including a trip to Pinehurst Resort, she has been to the Callaway World Junior Golf Championship in San Diego where she finished sixth in the six and under division and teed it up at Doral and PGA National as part of the First Tee Program in the United States.
To prepare Vanessa trains three hours each Saturday with Coach Lawrie including some ping pong to work on her eye-hand coordination. Dad takes his daughter to the Golf Dome three nights a week to practice what they worked on during the coaching session. “We have made some pretty big changes to her swing over the winter and I’m excited to see how it plays out at Augusta and into the summer,” says Lawrie who is the Head Coach for the Golf Association of Ontario NXTee Youth Golf Program. “She doesn’t like losing and she has that calmness and confidence around her when she’s competing that you don’t see in every youngster.”
When she grows up, Vanessa would like to be just like American LPGA star Lexi Thompson, who turned pro at the age of 15. “I would like to jump into that pond, just like Lexi,” Vanessa told her father after watching Thompson win the Kraft-Nabisco Championship in 2014.
Regardless of how she does at Augusta in April, Vanessa has signed up for the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. If she’s successful at the sub-regionals in Buffalo, she’ll advance to the regional final at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania and perhaps a return trip to the Masters in 2016.
NXTee Pee Wee Preview to set tone for inaugural Pee Wee Championship at Puslinch Lake Golf Course
UXBRIDGE— The Golf Association of Ontario (GAO) continues to encourage more kids to pick up the game of golf at an early age. Building on the success of 2014 and the introduction of the NXTee Program, funded in part by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the GAO is pleased to offer a pair of events on the 2015 championship calendar aimed at golfers under 13 years of age. This summer, young golfers will have the opportunity to compete in the NXTee Pee Wee Preview, May 2, at Puslinch Lake Golf Course in Cambridge, and the inaugural Ontario Pee Wee Championship, Aug. 6-7, also at Puslinch Lake Golf Course.
“The GAO is thrilled with the success of our new NXTee initiative which furthers our commitment to providing quality golf experiences for Ontario’s youth and their parents while attracting new participants to the sport for the first time,” said Mike Kelly, GAO Sport Development Director.
The enhanced programming for golfers under 13-years-old began this past fall with the introduction of the NXTee initiative. A pilot project, NXTee aimed to increase the development and engagement of junior golfers (aged 8-13) in York Region, providing them with an opportunity to continue to practice and increase their skills throughout the winter months in preparation for the golf season in a fun and friendly environment. The program also aimed to educate and provide information to parents to help their junior golfers take the next steps.
The first season of NXTee was greatly successful and will conclude on May 2 with the Pee Wee Preview. The event is designed for not only players in the program but other Pee Wee aged players who would like to take the opportunity to play the championship site and experience on-course play with other golfers. It is also a great practice for those who are thinking about competing in the Pee Wee Championship.
The Pee Wee Preview is part of the launch of the inaugural Pee Wee Championship. This two-round tournament is open to both boys and girls in the age group and is sure to galvanize more young players to pick up the game. “We are excited about the implementation of the Pee Wee events into the 2015 competitive schedule and look forward to hosting and engaging with all of the U13 participants,” said Matt Gauld, NXTee Coordinator.
UXBRIDGE— The Golf Association of Ontario (GAO), Golf Canada and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport are proud to announce the implementation of a new junior golf initiative: the NXTee youth (U13) golf x-perience.
The NXTee pilot program has been created to increase the development and engagement of junior golfers, aged 8-13 in the York Region, by providing them with an opportunity to continue to practice and increase their skills throughout the winter. The program prepares participants for the golf season in a fun and friendly environment.
“We want to be able to look at the NXTee x-perience as being able to inspire and enhance the development of kids at the club level,” said Doug Lawrie, NXTee Lead Coach. “We need to have that junior coach and leader at the club to inspire kids to learn and show them how simple it is to learn the game of golf. I think this program will help create structure to get everyone on the same page.”
A key strategy for the program aims to educate parents and increase awareness about junior golf pathways and the necessary next steps for their junior golfer.
“The GAO is truly excited to launch this important project as we work to strengthen our support for communities, families and clubs across Ontario,” added Mike Kelly, Managing Director, Sport. “NXTee is focused on enhancing engagement for parents and kids in the sport of golf while making new friends and having fun.”
The program includes: two outdoor skills challenges, one in the fall followed by another in the spring; two indoor training sessions during the winter; two parent education seminars; and proper rules and etiquette training.
“The GAO NXTee x-perience has been designed using scientific principles of long-term athlete development (LTAD),” said Dr. Peter Davis, GAO LTAD Consultant. “It is designed to help children improve their skills and enjoy their golf game using age-appropriate coaching and also for parents to understand how their children can best enjoy and develop their golf game through appropriate support.”
Locations for the Skills Challenges will be at Cardinal Golf Club (King), Copper Creek Golf Club (Kleinburg), Bushwood Golf Club (Markham), Lakeridge Links Golf Club (Whitby) and St. Andrews Valley Golf Club (Aurora) and will take place October 18-19. Each club will host a three-hour skills challenge on both days. The second skills challenge will take place in April 2015.
After the skills challenges, participants will sign up for winter training sessions. The winter training sessions will be held at The Golf Lab, in Vaughan.
During the winter training sessions, parent education seminars will also take place. The seminars are designed tooffer parents insight and knowledge into the world of junior golf, competitive or recreational pathways, long-term player development and strategies to improve their child’s golf development.