Cleveland Country Club’s Linda Mullins, who was tournament director, urged local juniors to compete in this year’s tournament. Her plea went mostly unanswered, with only three juniors participating in the two-day event at Chatata Valley Golf Course and at Cleveland Country Club.
Despite the meager turnout of juniors, it doesn’t mean there is a shortage of local girls playing golf. It seems there are a number of young girls just now taking up the game ... and they just have not reached the skill level to compete on the city tournament stage.
Lydia Triplett won her second consecutive junior championship last week, being challenged by good friends Sloane Rakestraw and Cortnee Young.
Triplett plays golf for Polk County High School. Rakestraw plays at Bradley Central and Young recently graduated from Walker Valley. Young signed a scholarship with Tennessee Wesleyan, but has since changed her plans and will attend King College in Bristol.
Only these three juniors played in the city event this year, raising some eyebrows. But, the concern may be unfounded. There may be a lull between their teenage group and many of our younger female golfers ... but the youngsters are on their way.
Perhaps a greater concern of mature women’s golfers across the state is the scarcity of amateur golfers in middle-age groups — 30 to 50. But, that’s easy to explain.
In my 50 years of involvement with the game, and women’s amateur golf in Tennessee, there has always been a shortage of golfers in these age groups.
Young ladies who become dedicated to the sport through high school and into college often have a serious change of priorities after their mid-20s.
Priorities usually change to marriage and family, as well as careers.
Many outstanding female golfers will put the sport on hold until these priorities are fulfilled. This is why you will find many women golfers returning to the sport after their children are into their teens (or older), or their business careers have been established.
This will probably continue into the future.
One person who is trying to instill interest in golf for local juniors (both girls and boys) is Lamar Mills, director of golf and clubhouse services at Cleveland Country Club.
Mills, a former golf professional at the old Rolling Hills Golf Course, has taken over the Bradley County Junior Golf League, which was founded more than 20 years ago by the late Bill “Chief” Robertson. Mills is also coordinating the popular junior summer camp this week at the country club, which includes tennis, swimming and special presentations from zoo personnel and law enforcement.
Mills said Monday he has seen an increase in golf interest for girls at both the country club and in the Bradley County Junior League.
“Previously the gender gap (ratio between boys and girls) at these events was 5-to-1 or 4-to-1,” Mills said. “Recently, the division is about 50-50.”
Coordinating a practice session for the camp’s 5-6 age group Monday, Mills pointed out that there were seven young ladies hitting golf balls ... and only three boys.
Catie Tucker, an Ooltewah High School graduate who played four years of golf at Austin-Peay and is now employed by the Tennessee Golf Association’s Junior Tour, was at the tour’s stop at the country club Monday and agreed that junior golf (for girls) in Tennessee is alive and well.
“I’ve been doing this for the past four years and we’ve had steady growth in girl participants,” she said.
Four young golfers from Ocoee Middle School participated in the 11-14 Division of the Junior Tour Monday, with Kelsey Cassada winning first place over OMS’s Olivia Lee. Cassada, Lee and classmates Katie Medley and Olivia Williams could be participants in the city tournament’s junior competition next year.
This would make the City Junior more competitive, and soothe the concerns of our golfing veterans about the future.