The PGA South Florida Junior Section is set to kick off its tournament season this weekend. It is an exciting time for junior golfers because they get an opportunity to see how their skills have improved and apply them while playing different courses across the region.
I teach a number of group classes and that allows my students to create friendships with golfers of different levels. At some point, a junior starts talking about their tournament experience to another junior and that may spark some new interest in a golfer who has not played in a tournament before. While it is easy to think that tournament play is a natural progression for your golfer, it is important to remember that playing golf on course with the family is very different from playing in a tournament against other golfers in their respective age group.
Assuming that your junior golfer can play the course applying the rules and keeps pace of play, maturity is key. While they may be playing against another junior golfer, the reality is they are competing against the course. Basically, the golfer is given so many shots to get the ball in the hole (this is par). The golfer's goal is make par or better. If you do great, if you don't then learn from your mistakes and move on to the next hole. It takes time to develop this kind of maturity on the golf course. Some junior golfers develop it early and others take longer to get to that level.
Additionally, sportsmanship is important. I teach my students to only complement their opponents and never wish them bad. There will be times when their opponent is doing well while they appear to be falling apart. Their response to a bad shot is just as important if not more important than their response to a good shot. Character will be defined or refined in these moments.
Once this level has been attained, it is important to remember to have fun and pick your caddie wisely. While this is often a parent, sometimes this relationship can be toxic on the golf course. I have seen many a junior golfer fall apart in a tournament because they are trying to please a parent rather than focus on golf. My advice to parents is to let your junior golfer make their own decisions. They will not learn or improve if you are guiding their every move. Encourage your junior golfer and avoid pressuring them to attain goals that you have or have had for yourself.
These are just a few things to consider before registering your junior for their first tournament. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me at 708-584-0887.