From start to finish, Alex Gerrard and his father Dory were glued to their TV. They took in every stroke made at this year’s Masters from start to finish. At fifteen years old, Alex had only ever heard the stories and seen the epic Tiger Woods highlights, but he had never witnessed the superstar actually win. So when it came time for Alex, an avid golfer himself to go play in his own golf tournament, he decided he’d risk it all to witness first hand how Tiger’s comeback story would end.
“The Masters was the first time I saw him (Tiger Woods) win. I never experienced it like that before. It was like watching a legend,” Alex remarked.
Alex was only four when Woods won his last Masters title and was more into trucks and trains, than fairways and driving ranges. It wasn’t until he was seven that his parents introduced him to golf. He quickly took to the sport, playing in his first tournament a year later. Fast-forward seven years Alex is now a ‘golf-crazed kid’, according to his father, who knows all the players on tour, their stats and the stories. Tiger Woods’ win back in April added more fuel to the fire for Alex.
“It is motivating for sure, to see what he’s done. Because he fell off the map and most people didn’t think he would ever come back, I honestly didn’t either. I was hoping he would. It was really cool to see him come back from that,” Alex remarked.
Alex is already heavily involved in the game, but the appeal of Tiger to perhaps a younger generation of kids at the grassroots level is something that can only help the game grow.
Jamie Reimer is a teaching professional with Golf Canada in Calgary. “I think that certainly, we may see a challenge upcoming here, we’ve been dealing with it (as) some of the Alberta Golf Tournaments have had record low attendance.”
One of Reimer’s roles aside from teaching is to develop and inspire young players. He was part of the first wave of Tiger Woods fans that after seeing Tiger win his first Masters, bought and wore his trademark red shirt and Nike hat. He believes the next wave of fans is sure to come through and be just as inspired and committed as he was and still is.
“I think that (there) may be a second wave coming through. Kids do pay attention they do watch TV, have more access to social media, and I think they are aware when something good is happening. Kids know that Tiger won. I think this generation will be just as inspired as my generation,” says Reimer.
There is no doubt Tiger’s story will continue to inspire young athletes, but long term interest, involvement and commitment to playing golf, relies on many factors. In 2015 Golf Canada in association with the PGA, released the Long-Term Player Development Guide or LTPD. It lists 11 key factors that impact youth athletes and their commitment to playing the game. The list includes:
- Physical Literacy
- Developmental Age
- Sensitive Periods
- The 10 S’s of Training and Development
- Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development
- Excellence Takes Time
- System Alignment and Integration
- Continuous Improvement
The LTPD guide also goes on to list four critical stakeholder groups that make the biggest impact on youth athletes. The list includes instructors and coaches, parents, facility owners and operations as well as athletes and players themselves. So while Tiger’s story continues to be extraordinary, the research shows there’s many factors that contribute to whether or not kids will want and or choose to play the game.
As for Alex, he loved watching Tiger but was almost more excited for his own father to see Tiger win again. He believes Tiger’s comeback is one that will affect more parent, knowing that it will ultimately ripple back through to their kids. “I think it will help the parents too especially the ones who might have watched him (Woods) earlier. I think it will really make people want to start golfing again and that will probably translate to kids too.”