The atmosphere for the ninth annual pro-am golf tourney at the Gull Lake Golf Course was one of excitement and anticipation.
Youngsters, hungry to improve their skills, and thrilled to be up close and personal with the pros of the game, enjoyed the opportunity to mix and mingle with some of the big names in golf as they joined them on the links.
The pros chatted and joked with each other, enjoying the time to hang out together in a relaxed setting and, in the process, help some youngsters learn a little more about the game.
The adult/child nine hole scramble was held Fri., July 18 at the golf course and on Sat., July 19, a nine-hole Texas scramble followed by nine holes of individual play was held.
As in the past, this year’s pro-am raised cash for junior golfers through the Junior Golfer Endowment Foundation to go towards their post-secondary education.
This year, around $8,000 was raised through the live and silent auction, boosting the amount of dollars raised in nine years to nearly sixty thousand.
Eamon McCann, who owns Gull Lake Golf Course with his wife Carla, has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for years to bring the tourney to fruition.
This year is no different.
The night of the adult/child nine hole scramble McCann is bubbling with excitement, as he oversees the activity, managing somehow to be here, there and everywhere, and always, most importantly, ending up where he is needed most.
“As owner of the Gull Lake Golf Course, I am very proud of how this foundation has given back to our junior golfers and helped with their secondary education,” he said. “It is wonderful.”
Laura Witvoet, LPGA member and head pro at Wolf Creek Golf Resort in Ponoka has been pivotal in the success of the junior program at Gull Lake, he said, noting with pleasure that Witvoet is on the list of pros at this year’s tourney.
Sandra Palmer, who has experienced 21 LPGA tour victories in her golfing career, was the 1975 U. S. Women’s Open Champion, the 1975 LPGA money list winner and also received the LPGA player of the year honors in that year, was one of the pros who attended the Gull Lake tourney.
The amiable golf pro appeared happy and relaxed on the links as she enjoyed some good-natured bantering with the other pros and shared advice and tips with other golfers.
“I’m really having a good time,” she said. “It’s great to see the support. They have created something really good here.”
Palmer said golf is a game everyone can enjoy.
“It offers so much,” she said. “There is nothing negative about it.”
She encourages anyone who has decided they want to play golf to take some lessons and learn the fundamentals and then just go out and enjoy yourself.
She said golf has always been a passion for her.
“It helps if you love what you’re doing, I taught school for a year. Now, that’s hard work.”
Sam Randolph, PGA Tour winner and top amateur in the 1985 and 1986 Masters was also happy to participate in the Gull Lake tourney, even taking time to attend the event Friday and Saturday before flying out to play in the Senior British Open.
“Eamon and Carla do a fantastic job here. There are more kids participate every year and the course keeps getting in better shape every year,” he said.
When teaching youngsters to golf he said it is important to teach them good manners and to fall in love with the sport.
“The main thing is not to put too much pressure on them.”
As far as an age limit on golf, he said there is none.
“It is never too late to start. You just have to adjust your expectations.”
Sixteen-year-old Claire McMann is the Alberta golf champion for age 16 and under.
She is pleased with her game and loves the sport.
“I started golfing when I was four. I came here (to this golf course) when I was seven. I (practically) grew up here,” she said. “It’s been great.”
George Smith, chairman of the Junior Golfer Endowment Foundation said he is pleased to note the foundation continues to grow.
“Every year we’re getting bigger and better,” he said.
See more photos in this week’s paper.