GAO launches Golf Barrie community golf initiative

The Golf Association of Ontario (GAO) and its community partners officially launched the Golf Barrie Community Golf initiative on Jan. 20. The day featured a pair of events, beginning with a stakeholders meeting followed by the official launch.

Barrie was selected as the first Golf Community by the GAO because of its diverse number of private and public course, strong community ties, festivals and events, and its engaged golf industry.

The community golf project aims to get individuals of all ages and backgrounds playing golf and creates a bridge between courses, community partners and golfers. The goal is to bring more people to the game and keep them playing for life. The movement also addresses the national need to develop all stages of the Long Term Athlete Development model.

Wednesday’s event began with a stakeholders meeting at Tangle Creek Golf & Country Club, where the golf club owners finalized the foundation for 2016 activities. The event was well received with members from 23 area courses in attendance.

The event then shifted to the Kenzington Burger Bar where the initiative was officially presented to the public. On hand was City of Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman who talked about the benefits of golf and voiced his support for the project and stated that his office will be available to help make the project a success.

GAO Executive Director Mike Kelly laid out the GAO’s goals for the project and stressed that the association is here for the courses to help them execute it to its maximum potential. “This is a special project that is being done for the first time. Barrie as a community should feel extremely proud that they are pioneering such an initiative.”

GAO Director of Marketing and Communications Kyle McFarlane went on to speak about the project itself. “Golf is more than just a game, it builds character, values and life skills while promoting healthy active living. It builds relationships on and off the course and helps to connect family and friends.”

Emphasized at the event was the Try, Learn and Play aspect of the initiative. Golf Barrie will be present at numerous events in Barrie and Simcoe County, beginning in February to introduce people to the sport, with an emphasis on fun. This can be through opportunities such as Golf in Schools, which the local golf industry has already sponsored 24 local schools, festivals and through current programs like She Swings She Scores/ He Swings He Scores, which brings golf into hockey arenas to introduce minor hockey players to the sport.

The Learn aspect is where the clubs will come in and offer their own programming by matching the individual from a Try initiative with a Learn program at a course near them. The aim is to help people take that next step in golf. Finally, the Play aspect is having those people who have now learned to play the game get out to the courses and play.

To help bridge the events and opportunities in Barrie, Golf Barrie will launch a website that will feature a schedule of events that Golf Barrie will have a presence at to Try golf, a list of Learn opportunities at Barrie courses, a course directory and local golf news. However, that is not the only thing that will be set up. Golf Barrie plans to roll out the Commit to Golf Barrie pledge, which golfers will be able to register for, take the pledge as to how many times they hope to play in 2016, and then be entered in draws for prizes for meeting those goals.

An important aspect of the project is its partnership with Georgian College and its Golf Management Program. The college has already committed one of its classes to be trained to help with the Golf In Schools program. This will allow those students to go to schools, with a certified instructor, to deliver programs. A community Golf Coach certification course has also been planned and spots have already been reserved for Georgian students.

“This partnership is extremely important to us,” said McFarlane. “What we have observed in Barrie is that facilities that don’t offer programs for beginners not because they don’t want to but rather because they don’t have someone on staff all season to teach the programs. By training the instructors and having courses in the area share them, more programs at the Learn level can be offered. By having the students take certification programs, more qualified individuals will be available to teach these programs.”

Georgian College also has a capstone project that will develop a consumer behavior profile for Golf Barrie. The group will identify who the golfers are, what they want out of the local industry and any current barriers. This way Golf Barrie will be able to make adjustments for future initiatives.

In 2016, the Golf Barrie initiative hopes to deliver more than 70 golf awareness event days, host a Family Golf Festival, support and promote Learn programs at golf courses and establish community relations to ensure stability. With these objectives, it is hoped that more than 15,000 people can be exposed to golf.

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