Clubs need to embrace juniors, says Jack
Australia’s golf clubs should lose their old “fuddy duddy” ways and embrace youth or they will perish says one of this country’s most engaging thinkers, Jack Newton.
Talking as his organisation celebrates 25 years of coordinating junior golf in New South Wales, the former champion player has no time for people stuck in the past.
Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation celebrates 25 years
“They have to keep up, I mean how long ago was it that they finally banished the wearing of long socks,” he said.
“It’s so ironic that these old blokes wearing their Lowes shorts, walk up to young kids who are wearing high quality designer gear, telling them they aren’t dressed properly or their shirt is hanging out.”
And Jack also takes aim at some of the games older female administrators.
“Some of them don’t help – one of them told my niece that they didn’t like the perfume she was wearing, so she quit at 14 and only now, at the age of 30, has she returned,” Newton said.
“How many more kids have we lost because of attitudes like this?”
Newton believes some of Australia’s leading and exclusive clubs could do more to encourage youth.
“Some of these courses have the best practice facilities that are hardly used and have plenty of money,” he said.
And he has a warning to all clubs.
“If they don’t bring young kids into their clubs they will die. It’s like a triangle, if the base isn’t strong then the top will collapse.”
To say that Newton is passionate about junior golfers is clearly an understatement.
It was his idea of creating a championship for juniors that gave birth to the Jack Newton Junior Golf organisation, a quarter of a century ago.
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure it would turn out quite like this,” he said.
“But I have to say it’s not just me, it’s been a terrific team effort from a lot of dedicated people.”
The Jack Newton Junior Golf (JNJG) started out with just one tournament, held at Jack’s old home club, The Oaks at Cessnock in the NSW Hunter Valley.
That tournament is now called “The International” and is an event open to elite golfers from all over Australia and overseas. It has been a lunching pad for many or this country’s biggest names including Karrie Webb (who didn’t win along with Adam Scott) and Sarah Kemp and Aaron Baddeley, who did get to hold the trophy aloft.
The International is one of four major tournaments that the organisation runs, the others, The Harvey Norman Week of Golf, The State Age and the Champions Trophy allow golfers of all levels to compete in tournaments just like the professionals.
Alongside these events, there is also a series of tournaments that make up the Masters series and other events for up and coming golfers called Junior Jack and Juniors on the Move. The organisation has 1200 kids on its books.
As any golfing parent will attest, it is hard to imagine this country’s young golfers having the skills levels that they currently possess without the JNJG organisation.
“The technical standard of the kids these days is really outstanding, I reckon some of them know more about the game than I did when I was at my peak,” Newton said.
But he then quickly adds: “Most of the kids I see can hit the ball a fair distance but their ability to get up and down is no where near as good. Perhaps that’s where our coaching is falling down because the kids’ short games need some work.”
Yet despite the average short game of today’s young guns, Newton loves nothing better than observing these kids out on the course.
“I much prefer watching these young kids go out and play the game than the professionals,” he said.
“Their attitude is just so good they don’t have this paralysis by analysis, they just walk up hit the ball, hit out of the trees and keep going.
“I just love how they go about it.”