January 26, 2022 – Kingston, Ontario
Scott MacLeod ~ Flagstick Magazine
Golf is changing, for the better. Once thought of as the bastion of the older, white male, the landscape is changing. As people have recognized the sport as being universal, open to everyone being included, golf has benefited. That said, there is much progress left to make, in realms that are not always considered.
But it’s happening. Slowly in some cases, but at least in a positive direction.
Another sign of that is a new program that will expand the horizons and perceptions of young Canadian golfers by introducing them to golfers they may never have considered.
Coming soon, an entity that focuses on golfers of all-abilities, ParaGolf Canada, will be working to bring greater awareness to their athletes through involvement with all-ready established junior programs throughout the country.
It’s easy for golfers to think inside a box that only involves people that reflect their own circumstances, and the the new ParaGolf Canada Junior Integration Program is intended to push those boundaries of thought.
“The sooner we expose our youth to disability, the more easily we will start to create a ripple effect of inclusivity and acceptance,” says Todd Keirstead, Founder/CEO of ParaGolf Canada, well known for his efforts to create inclusion in golf throughout North America. “The ParaGolf Canada Junior Integration Program is designed to bring about a change in the perception of disabilities, and thus generate more inclusive behaviours.”
Keirstead, a PGA of Canada member, says the ParaGolf Canada strategy will be to look to integrate their members into junior programs in the country. That may consist of 9 holes of play, or event clinics/exhibitions that showcase the skills of the ParaGolf Canada members. They want to build a future in a realistic and appropriate setting where people of all abilities are not viewed by their perceived inabilities, but celebrated for their strengths by our next generation.
“It is important that we engage ParaGolf Canada ambassadors in explaining disabilities to junior golfers. Our ambassadors have to be the ones to determine the message conveyed,” says Keirstead. “I have personally witnessed first-hand how growth in sensitivity and the wisdom that emerges from the program provides juniors with the tools to change misconceptions and become more conscious, compassionate, and inclusive individuals.
One circuit who has already stepped up to be involved is the eastern Ontario-based PLAY Junior Golf Tour. It was established in 2014 with the mission to give all kids the opportunity to learn and experience the game of golf by playing in a competitive, positive and safe environment through financial, developmental, and organizational support.
“The PJGT is more than a junior golf tour, says President/Founder Chris Veltkamp. “We are a training tool for tomorrow, teaching kids disciplines and values through the game of golf that will last a lifetime. The vision of the tour has never changed, provide a platform for kids to PLAY golf, by reducing barriers and fostering their growth and love for the game.”
In line with that mandate it was easy decision for Veltkamp to step up and create an affiliation with the new ParaGolf Canada initiative.
“Inclusivity and opportunities for everyone has always been a pillar that the PJGT has stood on, and will always be part of our vision moving forward,” Veltkamp shared with Flagstick.com. “Educating junior golfers about adversity both on and off the golf course will better prepare them for a future that eliminates how they perceive disabilities, and gives them the understanding and empathy that we are all different and have special talents. Seeing first hand the determination, will-power and strength individuals who have faced physical challenges will hopefully inspire our junior members to believe in themselves and never give up!. I am so excited to begin a new chapter with Todd and these inspiring individuals!”.
How the integration will work in 2022 for the PJGT is being worked on, with a lot of creative options being considered. More details will be available once finalized.
Keirstead is working hard to build attention to this effort, and in order for it to come to fruition, will be looking to work with more tours and junior programs throughout the country. He already has some high profile companies and individuals looking to support it and says he is open to approaches and discussion about how they can expand the scope of golf in Canada through this enterprise.