Page 100 - South Mississippi Living - August, 2021
P. 100

 Coast Junior
    Hits a Growth Spurt
story by Finley Hewes
photos courtesy of Our Lady of Fatima
Junior Golf along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. The players are starting out at younger ages and there are more inclusive programs and tournaments available. In speaking with numerous local pros, it is estimated that we currently have about 400 junior golfers in our area and that number is steadily growing.
“For about a decade in the early 2000s, we had a good number of junior golfers along the Coast, and we were highly competitive and produced some college players,” said Rory Nelson, general manager and head pro at Windance Country Club in Gulfport. “But then we kind of fell off for a little while, and now we’re starting to see a strong resurgence.”
Nelson and other area pros attribute the comeback to a larger number of young golfers getting involved at a very early age. “We’re seeing solid numbers of five and six year olds coming out to camps and clinics,” said US Kids Golf Gulf Coast Tour Director, Jimmy Headrick. “And they’re sticking with the game and improving and having fun.”
Another contributing factor to the advancement of the sport is the growing number of opportunities for kids to learn the game. Diamondhead, The Oaks, Windance, Bayou Vista, Bay Breeze, Whispering Pines, Shell Landing and Sunkist are all local courses offering year-round camps, clinics, private lessons, and participation in area league play at very affordable prices. The socio-economic barrier that once prevented
some children from ever picking up a golf club is slowly eroding. Currently, there are two leading junior leagues holding local
competitions. The Gulf Coast Junior Golf League (GCJGL) and the PGA Junior League (PGAJL), and they are open to any child ages 5-17. They both focus on kids having fun while learning the lifelong game of golf and encourage family interaction that builds lasting memories.
The GCJGL was born of necessity. “Chris Altese and I started the GCJGL when our daughters were starting to really enjoy playing and
the only options were summer programs,” said Jason Gibson, co- founder of the GCJGL. “We started the league so that kids could play year-round.” The GCJGL implements the game standards and values
set forth by US Kids Golf, the largest junior golf tour in the nation. Junior golf is definitely on the upswing. If you’re looking to get your child involved in a lifelong sport that imparts solid values and real life
lessons, please visit our facebook page to find a program near you.
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August 2021
Patrick and Peyton Parker and Webb Sumrall.
Lauren Ellis, Peyton Olier and Philomene Kirk.
Max Jurich, Dawson Durand and Greyson Meister.
Malachi Case.

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