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So the kids can play...
It began in 1993 when Bergen Community College Golf Coach Doug Yennie and his wife Linda approached the Department of Parks with an idea to invigorate junior golf in Bergen County. Former Director of Parks, Wolfgang Albrecht, Jr. heard the plan and whole heartedly supported the plan offering the county golf courses for the tournaments and the county golf staff as program administrators. Golf Operation Manager, Angela Tennaro, Management Specialist, Lynn Bartlett and Recreation Specialist, Tim Bassett added the program to their duties while Doug and Linda provided direction. Over 100 young participants played in those first three golf events. The enthusiasm was overwhelming from the players, parents and the press. The Record’s Kevin Czerwinski provided weekly coverage of the events with generous commentary on the success of the program and its benefit to the youth of the county.
Great interest in the Tour brought to light the need for a program of basic instruction. The Pioneer Clinic began in 1995. It was developed to provide beginners with sound fundamentals in both golf mechanics and golf etiquette. The pros of the Darlington Driving Range assisted the Parks staff and volunteer high school coaches in bringing this introductory program to the kids.
In 1997 a new administrative team manned the helm of Bergen County golf. General Manager Kevin Purcell and Management Specialist Della Carroll brought a wealth of experience and passion to the golf operation. The new vitality lead to a master plan for the golf courses and an expanded adult tournament schedule. The junior golf program continued to flourish through the transition with Doug and Linda giving both their time and energy to set the path.
The Q-Tour was added in 1998 as an intermediate program between the instruction of The Clinic and the competition of The Tour. It provided access to a golf course for those not yet ready to play on their own. It was developed under the watchful eye of father and son team Dick and Shawn Bennett. These high school coaches helped start a program that allowed kids to play without parental involvement. Groups of four play as many holes as they can in the two-hour session, held once a week for five weeks. An adult walks with each group to help the players get around the course. Proper etiquette, pace of play and safety on the course are all stressed in this program.
Golfers who have reached the age of 13 or have qualified through the Q-Tour are eligible to participate on The Pioneer Tour. Four divisions group participants by age and gender: Division I Boys (16-18), Division II Boys (13-15), Division III Girls (13-18), Division IV Boys & Girls (9-12). They compete on both public and private courses throughout the area. Competition is fierce but camaraderie rules the day. While the Tour has produced a number of fine golfers the vast majority participate for the challenge and enjoyment of the game.
In a county where tee times are at a premium it is often difficult for young golfers to find a place to play. The Clinic, Q-Tour and Pioneer Tour introduce young golfers to the game and provide opportunity for their interest. Over eight hundred kids participate in the program every year. County Executive Kathleen Donovan, the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Parks Department continue to commit the necessary resources for this extraordinary program. Their unwavering support and the dedication of the countless volunteers guarantee the success of the program and the growth of junior golf in Bergen County.