Enjoying the May 27 family day as part of the Petawawa junior golf program are from left, Officer Cadet Chad LeBlanc, Beckett Watson, organizer Jackie Findlay and Marc Antoine Larouche. (Photo by Bruce Peever, Petawawa Post)

Hitting the junior links with help from others

By Bruce Peever

Posted on Thursday June 7, 2018

If junior golf is a good enough start for Olympians like Brooke Henderson, it’s certainly a big boon for local child duffers.

For the past eight years a junior golfing program has been running as part of the Dave Findlay Foundation. Jackie Findlay, wife of the late former golf professional, says the junior program is now run out of the Petawawa Golf Club thanks to the expertise of Club Manager Paul Cotey.

“We have had this program on the Base for a couple of years now as Paul has those necessary teaching credentials. Paul and my husband were good friends for many years. Now that Dave is gone, Paul has stepped up and the junior program is taking off,” Findlay said.

On May 27, 36 local kids with a similar number of parents and grandparents took to the Petawawa Golf Club for a family day of fun and education. Participants were aged eight to 16 years with quite a few enjoying golf for the first time.

“We want to be able to offer a venue where anyone who wants to can learn how to play golf. It can be expensive so we want to get people involved who might not otherwise be able to,” Findlay outlined.

Along with offering free memberships and offsetting the cost of clubs Cotey also established practice time at the Airport Driving Range, Findlay explained.

“Paul has donated a lot to make this feasible. It’s a good program and it is good that someone like Paul is able to teach proper mechanics and etiquette,” she added.
Junior program graduate, Officer Cadet (OCdt) Chad LeBlanc was one of those helping out. He remembers as a kid, biking to the course, playing 36 holes and doing it all again the next day.

“It gave us an opportunity. I love golf but it can be expensive and this program gave us an opportunity to play and we didn’t have to spend a lot of money,” LeBlanc stated.
Now in his fourth year at the Royal Military College, LeBlanc credits the local junior program with helping him to qualify for the Canadian Professional Golfers Association Junior Tour a few years back.

“The junior tour had four tour events and tournaments and we played throughout the Ottawa Valley. Brooke Henderson (of Smiths Falls) played on that tour. It was a great program,” LeBlanc recalled.

As a full-time student OCdt LeBlanc still plays 10 to 15 rounds of golf over the season. He jumped at the chance to help other golfers potentially make it to the next level.

“Paul asked me to mentor today, so we played nine holes and I showed a couple of things and gave a couple of pointers to those I was playing with,” he said.

One of those taking up golf for the first time this year is 13-year-old Marc Antoine Larouche, a student of centre scolaire catholique Jeanne-Lajoie.

“It was a lot of fun. I learned how to use different clubs. I already knew some golf etiquette and we were taught even more.”

Ten-year-old Beckett Watson has been golfing for a year and this is his first junior program. He wants to pursue golf and be part of the program next year if it is offered.
“I learned how to line my feet up and how to line up my ball,” the Pine View School student stated.

The junior golf program continues all this summer leading up to the Dave Findlay Memorial Golf Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 25. This is a fundraiser with half of the day’s proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society and the other half to assist golf opportunities within Garrison Petawawa.