The 2016 Austin Summer Junior Tour series kicked off a few weeks ago and is now in full swing.
Three of the seven summer tournaments have been played so far – the Felix George tournament held at Morris Williams Golf Course, the Joe Balander tournament held at Jimmy Clay Golf Club, and the Roy Kizer tournament, which was held yesterday at Roy Kizer Golf Course.
The events, which are conducted and played at the Austin Public Links golf facilities, have hosted over 150 kids in the first three tournaments. Yesterday’s competition at Roy Kizer drew the biggest turnout in the 2016 series so far with 59 junior golfers coming out to play.
Although this was the largest number of tournament participants this summer, the number of players is fewer than in years past.
Kevin Gomillion, City of Austin Golf Division Manager, said that in the past upwards of 200 junior golfers that attended the Austin Junior Golf Academy would come out and play in the summer tournaments. However, the numbers have dwindled over the years.
“Throughout the past we’ve seen a decline in numbers,” Gomillion said, “largely because there are so many other junior golf organizers in the area and region.”
With other golf groups such as the Southern Texas PGA running junior events throughout the summer, the Austin Summer Junior Tour has seen a downfall in their summer tournament turnout. But Gomillion said they’re not concerned with the participant numbers, rather giving new junior golfers a chance to learn and play the game in a more relaxed environment.
“Really what we’re trying to do is make sure there’s a spot for kids that are coming into the game that are somewhat threatened or don’t feel at ease playing competitive golf,” Gomillion said. “Then graduating those kids onto programs that are on a much higher competitive level.”
Although the Austin junior tournaments provides a safe-haven for young first time golfers to get a taste of the game, competition between accomplished junior golfers and personal bests are still seen frequently on the course.
Trent Mierl of Austin had a stellar performance at the Felix George tournament in the boys 9-10 age division. He shot a hole-in-one on the third hole in the second round and shot a five-under 67 overall in the tournament.
Although all competitors deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts in the tournaments, noteworthy performances such as Mierl’s (including holes-in-one, birdie streaks, exceptional rounds and other scoring accomplishments) are recorded at the end of each junior event.
The Austin Golf Division not only facilitates the seven junior golf tournaments which go on during the summer, but also administer a partnership with the Austin Junior Golf Academy.
From 1962 to 1987 former UT Golf Coach George Hannon, Austin legend and municipal golf pro Joe Balander, and Lions Municipal’s long time golf professional Lloyd Morrison taught junior golfers in the Greater Austin Area about the game. Originally known as The Junior Golf Program, the three developed The Austin Junior Golf Academy in 1987 after 25 years.
A teaching program was implemented that would teach junior golfers the fundamentals of the life-long game and ways to develop good sportsmanship. Since the late 1980s, upwards of 400 golfers attend the Austin Junior Golf Academy Summer Camp that’s hosted each year at the Hancock Golf Course. The same lessons that were originally taught by Hannon, Balander and Morrison are still taught at the camp each year – an Austin golf tradition.
Overtime the Austin Junior Golf Academy program grew larger and eventually spring boarded the Summer Junior Tour that’s played today. In addition to the Austin Junior Golf Academy and the Austin Summer Junior Tour are the Austin Junior Golf Clinics that are hosted throughout the summer.
The one-day clinics started in the mid-1980s, and have been going ever since. Kids ages 5-13 years old are welcome to come out and spend time with an instructor to improve their game or to see if golf is a sport in which they’d be interested in playing. Contracted teaching professionals and city employees come in to run the clinics.
“We take them through all aspects of the game,” Gomillion said. “From learning to tee up a ball all the way to learning the mechanics of a golf swing.”
Through the variety of summer golf activities and tournaments, Austin Public Links and the Austin Junior Golf Academy continue to give junior golfers the opportunity to become part of a long-standing tradition of golf in Austin.
For registration information about the remaining junior tour tournaments or the junior golf clinics visit the Austin Junior Golf page. To learn more about the Austin Junior Golf Academy, please visit their website.