Junior golf in Lewistown looks promising

Many of the junior golfers took advantage of the junior golf program ran this summer to apply what they had learned by competing in the Devon Moe Memorial Tournament the day before school started.
Photo courtesy of Keithon Walter

After starting small in the spring of 2014, the Pine Meadows Junior golf program has grown since that time. The idea of the program was to get more junior golfers (ages 5 to 13) interested in the game. Brett Thackeray and Keithon Walter started a junior golf program that begins the first Monday in June and goes until the last Monday before school starts in August. The program runs from 9-11 a.m. every Monday throughout the summer.
The kids get instruction, full use of the driving range, putting and chipping greens as well use of the golf course - all free of charge.
“In 2015 we did some fundraising to get clubs for the kids to use, as well as supply a snack and drink for each child.  We had a barbecue, long drive, putting and chipping contests as well as Keithon golfing a marathon 212 holes. All raised money for the program” Thackeray said. “There were many local businesses and individuals that stepped forward to donate. We have some volunteers that come out to help us as well as some of our current high school golf team.”  
“As avid golfers and coaches, we want the game to grow and we want to get younger kids involved so they can learn the game early and enjoy it for a long time,” Walter said.
 This past summer, Pine Meadows youth golf received a grant from the National Elks, as well as the Montana State Golf Association. In the last three years, 71 different kids have participated. As many as 35 youth golfers came to junior golf on a single Monday during this past 2016 summer, averaging 25 kids per week, which is up from 10 in 2015. 
“We need to stress that with the increase in student numbers we really need a few more adults to step up and volunteer to help out,” said Thackeray. “We especially need those parents that want their younger children (ages 5 to 8) to participate to also be willing to stick around and help out. It is a great parent/child experience and to really make it a learning experience for the wee ones, we need the parents helping us.”
The Lewistown Elks has been generous to Lewistown youth golf in donating its facilities, as well as providing crucial funding for the Fergus High School golf team.
Thackeray and Walter also coach the Fergus High golf teams. The Fergus boys’ team won the 2013 and 2014 Central A Divisional golf titles.  In 2015 the boys finished in third, finishing just six shots short of winning three divisional titles in a row. In 2015 the FHS girls’ team won their first ever Central A Divisional golf title and followed with another divisional title in 2016. This past 2016 golf season the Fergus girls team brought home a third-place trophy from State Class A golf. 
In recent years Fergus has had four individual Central A Divisional championship titles.  Tyrell Walter won the individual title for the boys in 2014 and 2015, while Kinsey Irvin won the individual title for the girls in 2015 and 2016. Both Irvin and Walter earned all-state honors by placing in the top 15 at state. Walter finished 11th in 2014 and third in 2015. Irvin placed 12th in 2015 and was second in 2016.  
Walter and Thackeray hope that the junior golf program will lead to greater interest in the high school golf team.
“Just from being around the state and participating in various tournaments this year we’ve noticed that the high school golf team numbers are down - both in the boys and the girls - and we think we are on the right track in growing youth golf in Lewistown” the two coaches agreed.  “We believe a solid junior program will grow and develop our Fergus High School golf team, plus the kids seem to enjoy the time they spend on the course.”  
Pine Meadows Junior golf will fire up next summer starting Monday, June 5 - the first Monday after school is out! Be there!



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