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Callaway Junior Tour season approaching

PARKERSBURG — When the calendar turns to June in the Mountain State that means it’s time for junior golf.

Despite having to deal with continued concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, things appear to be in good shape for this year’s Callaway Junior Tour.

Chris Slack, tournament director for the West Virginia Golf Association, is excited for things to get started with the first event set for June 1 at Edgewood Country Club.

The vision of former leader Larry Martin continues to be carried on and this season marks the 37th overall year.

What started in 1984 as the Mister Bee Potato Chip Tour has changed names a couple of times through the decades, but the goal of promoting youth golf has remained the same.

“We canceled one. We had an event scheduled for Snowshoe on June 18 and we had to cancel that,” Slack said of the summer schedule. “Their management company said that snowshoe golf course was not going to open until July 1. The Greenbrier was going to be our season kickoff the Tuesday after Memorial Day.

“We actually just postponed that event a week and a half ago because they were still unsure when they were going to open. As it turns out they are going to open this Friday the 22nd. Maybe we could’ve done it, but they wouldn’t have had a full staff and it just wouldn’t be great so we postponed that until July 13.”

Other than those couple of issues, everything else on the original schedule is good to go.

Despite having to use just one person per cart, Slack said the WVGA’s senior series events they’ve conducted recently have sold out.

“Golf in the state has been very busy,” he said. “All four of those events sold out.

“Everyone is anxious, excited. It’s definitely different, but people are ready to play.”

Local stops for the CJRT will be on July 8 at Greenhills Country Club in Ravenswood and on July 20 with the tour championship at Parkersburg Country Club.

A new avenue being explored this summer for the very first time is the Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League.

The five-event league will conduct its first tournament on June 6 at Mingo Bottom Golf Club in Elizabeth.

The other four dates are June 13 at Minibel Par 3, June 27 at Worthington Golf Club, July 25 at Woodridge Golf Club and Aug. 8 at the Golf Club of West Virginia.

“That’s a first-time deal for 2020 and we started in Wood County,” Slack added. “Hap Esbenshade of Tri-State Roofing and Sheet Metal has been very generous to support junior golf and we want the rookie league to mirror the junior tour, eventually, but we’re starting in Wood County.

“We wanted to start small and we decided to start in Wood County with five events. We’re only charging $12 for an entry fee. It’s for any age, but it’s more on ability based. You might be 6 or you might be 12, but you might be playing in the same wave there. We’re just trying to get more kids into the game.”

Slack said they decided to make three divisions for the rookie league.

“It’s like minor league baseball,” he added. “We went single-A, double-A and triple-A. Your single-A are only going to play five or six holes. I don’t want to say we are mirroring off US Kids Golf. We’ll put tees out in the fairway for them.

“Your double-A and triple-A will play nine holes. Double-A will have their own tees in the fairways. A par 3 won’t be anymore than 75 yards. A par 5 won’t be anymore than 250 yards give or take and it gets a little longer when you get to double-A and triple-A.”

The tournament director added “we’re pretty excited about that. We hope to get a good turnout. Obviously, with everything going on right now we just have no idea.”

Although the rookie league cost is just $12 per event, Slack is more than amped with the fact the CJRT events are still one of the best golfing bargains in the Mountain State.

“That was Larry’s whole goal from the start of this junior tour,” Slack noted of trying to make it affordable for everyone. “Even on the regular tour the entry fee is $30 today.

“When I started doing the junior tour in 2012 and I interned before that and we were at $25 an event and only at $30 today. It’s the most affordable tournament golf you can play, bar none.”

Slack and everyone else at the WVGA is hoping for the best on all fronts, but only time will tell how things go this year.

“It’s like anything else, when you start something are we going to get five people to sign up or are we going to get 60?” Slack added of the new rookie league. “You have no idea.”

Prior to the pandemic, Slack admitted “we were hitting it with some emails and social media and then everything happened.

“Have we got the word out enough, maybe not, I don’t know? We’ve been lucky in the golf world. We’ve been lucky with it.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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