Cape Coral Junior Golf Association just concluded its 26th season.
Knickers Pub, the restaurant at Coral Oaks Golf Course, was filled with parents and players anticipating the many awards and gifts to be given out at the closing presentation last Monday. Even the inclement weather that prevented the group from going out on the course did not quell their enthusiasm.
"If you learn to play by the rules, it's a game you can play the rest of your life," association president Marianne Drahos said.
Nathan Martin was the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award this year at the CCJGA closing ceremonies. He has been involved with the Jr. Golf Association since he was 10.
Cape Coral Junior Golf was specifically set up for youngsters ages 7-18. It runs for six consecutive Mondays in June and early July. Children are instructed on their golf swing and other mechanics. Then they get to play on the course.
It starts with "first swing" for developing players, either 3, 5, or 9 holes on a shortened course and intermediate and championship divisions that play the course's front nine. With 50 to 60 volunteers, including eight to 10 golf pros giving instruction, Coral Oaks is teeming with up-and-coming players. Registration for this year topped out at 249, and the attendance for June averaged 194 per week.
Drahos and Carole Egan have been participating in the CCJGA since its first year. Natives of Chicago, the pair moved to Cape Coral and were soon heavily involved.
"We were volunteers the first year, and they asked us during the sixth week if we could head up the intermediate division," said Egan. "It used to run eight weeks, so we were in charge of that division for three weeks. We've been doing it ever since."
Drahos recalls one particular 5-year-old girl in the early years of their work.
"She got into the sand trap, and took 49 shots to get out," Egan said. "That girl said, 'I never want to be in there again!'"
These two women were nominated for the Henry B. Watkins Award for contributions to the game by Golf Pro Allen Magnuson, himself a former Junior Golf Association winner.
Besides contributing to hundreds of lives in the program, these leaders have seen several junior golfers go on to bigger things. Chase Marinell, who played at Bishop Verot High School and Liberty University, returned this summer to volunteer as a pro. He was joined by Anthony Myers, a 2013 Ida Baker graduate.
Myers, who is continuing to pursue his PGA apprenticeship, said, "I really enjoy helping kids. This is hopefully a future career for me, so it's good to volunteer."
Magnuson thought that between 10 and 15 participants had played on a higher level, and then came back to help the program.
Many parents are also involved as volunteers. Jane Flynn, a math teacher at Oasis Middle School, has had her children involved for three years. This year she has two in the program, Johnathan, 12, and Jackalyn, 9.
"The whole program is great," she said. "Besides golf, they teach them etiquette. Children nowadays don't always get that. They have increased the staff every year. The pros are knowledgeable, and so the kids learn golf and have fun."
Cindy Holiday started being involved 16 years ago when her two sons, Nicholas and Garrett, were playing. They have long since graduated from the program, but Cindy continues on.
"We've become a lot more organized than what it was like at first," Holiday said. "Now we know where all the kids are, and keep track of their scores."
"One of the joys of the game is to see children of some of the players we had years ago now coming to be a part of the program," Drahos said. "Nick Loughren has two boys in the program, and Nathan Corkhill has a step-son in it as well."
Registration for next year will start in May. For more information contact Drahos or Egan at 772-3318.