Martin Dempster: Juniors playing in adult events is no brainer

Hannah Darling,who developed her game in competitions at Broomieknowe, in action at the junior Solheim Cup. Picture: Jamie Squire/IMG
Hannah Darling,who developed her game in competitions at Broomieknowe, in action at the junior Solheim Cup. Picture: Jamie Squire/IMG
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S o, the “Pillocks of the Year” prize goes to the lady members who wanted to stop juniors from taking part in their club competitions before someone with a grasp on modern-day life intervened.

Well done to John Clark, the managing director of Ping, for quickly stepping in and avoiding any further embarassment for Thonock Park, which is owned by the equipment manufacturer, but what on earth possessed those lady members at the Lincolnshire club to pass such a vote?

Was it because they are precious wee souls and don’t like losing out to youngsters in competitions? If so, they should hang their heads in shame because such an attitude is just not acceptable in the sport.

No wonder there were lots of people expressing disbelief over the decision before Clark issued a statement from Ping’s European headquarters nearby to say that it had been revoked due to the fact it was “completely against the values, principles and philosophies” of the company.

“This shouldn’t even be a debate/question!” declared Bradley Neil, the 2014 Amateur champion, on Twitter and, in fairness, he should know, having played in men’s competitions at Blairgowrie as he came through the junior ranks.

“Most of the best golfers – if not all – this game has seen will have played adult competitions as a junior. How can we expect to grow the game if we deny them the chance to improve?”

Exactly and how ironic that this story came to light on the same day that 15-year-old Englishman Josh Hill earned a place in the record books by becoming the youngest winner of an Official World Golf Ranking event with his victory in the Al Ain Open on the MENA Tour, one of the game’s third-tier circuits. Like many players of his age, Hill has seen his game flourish through competing against adults from an early age.

There’s more to it than just that, though. Youngsters can learn life skills from spending time in adult company and, speaking from experience, 
a golf course can be one of 
the best places to appreciate that.

Yes, of course, there are some people out there who aren’t necessarily the ideal role models but, in the main, the majority of people that play the game can be instrumental in that respect and, what’s more, are happy to do so.

It really is a no brainer that juniors should be allowed to play in adult competitions and even more so these days when older members should feel a sense of duty when it comes to doing everything possible to proctect the future of their golf club.

If Ping hadn’t stepped in, those lady members at Thonock Park would have been scoring a shocking own goal as far as the club was concerned and also for the game itself in the bigger picture.

At a time when attracting new blood into the game is vital, the sport needs more players like Hannah Darling, for example, who has been encouraged by her home club, Broomieknowe, and has seen her talent blossom as a consequence.

Would she be on the verge of breaking into the world’s top 100 if she’d been stopped from playing against older and more experienced players over the last few years? Probably not.