This season, Ayrton Longe wanted to focus more on golf and try to get into tournaments.
The Elliot Lake teen is one of about 90 competitors on the links this weekend at the Hollinger Golf Club in Timmins for the NextGen Fall Series East Championship.
“I just want to get a feel for what the tournament’s going to be like and hopefully get back here next year,” said Longe, taking a break from his practice round ahead of the start of the competition tomorrow.
The junior tournament is a Golf Canada event and is being hosted by the Hollinger and the Northern Golf Association (NGA).
Tournament chair Owen Rigg said the Timmins club has bid on the national championship for 2023. With that submission, Golf Canada offered the club the opportunity to host the NextGen event.
"The NexGen event’s one of their smaller events, but it has national significance. It’s basically a central Canadian, eastern Canadian championship so there are kids participating from Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick,” he explained.
Three spots from the boys' division and three from the girls' division are allocated to next year's national championship, said Rigg.
"It’s a very big deal for us. It’s kind of what we would call a dry run. They wanted to see what we could provide in volunteers, what we could with sponsorship. The golf course itself, it’s really the first time for Golf Canada to really be up here to see what we have and from all indications so far they’re really pleased with what they see. We’re hoping that this will lead to an opportunity to host the national boys’ championship in the near future,” he said.
This is the biggest national event that the club has hosted and is something Rigg has been working toward for years.
“I’m a board member of the NGA, but I also was a player growing up and ended up on a golf scholarship in the US. These were things I would have died to have done when I was a kid and we didn’t have an opportunity to do it because we weren’t in the system for many, many years," said Rigg.
In 2018, NGA signed an agreement to bring the northern clubs back into Golf Ontario and Golf Canada programming.
While there are no Timmins players in this weekend's tournament, he hopes it will inspire the next wave of junior golfers in the community.
"We have a really, really outstanding junior program that’s been kind of evolving over the last 10 years and we have 12 to 14 kids now that are playing very regularly that are between the ages of nine and 14 that are starting to really, really like the game. And they’re a part of this, they’re volunteering this weekend. They’re going to be out here seeing the most elite kids at this event participate and we’re hoping it inspires them to say ‘well, what do I have to do to get to that level’,” Rigg said.
The tournament director is also the assistant tournament director for the RBC Canadian Open, which Rigg noted is a professional event.
“People need to see this, the community needs to see this, the golf community in Northern Ontario in general needed to see this because we’re so far north that people don’t think of golf. It kind of opens a lot of people’s eyes about how professional they operate,” he said.
The tournament is open to the public. Tickets are $5 a day and the money will be used for local junior golf initiatives.