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Atkinson Resort & Country Club in Atkinson, NH has been named NGCOA National Course of the Year and NEGCOA Course of the Year among many other honors, but perhaps its greatest reward is that of promoting golf to youngsters.

It may be the most important part of our job,” says Peter Doherty Atkinson CC’s Director of Golf. “Not only are you teaching younger players the game of golf but you’re teaching them life skills. We’ve been fortunate with the success of our junior programs.” Indeed, the Willowcreek Golf Academy and Junior Golf Camps have set Atkinson apart from other courses in terms of a commitment to the future of the game. Says Doherty, “Kids are learning about patience, discipline, integrity, and humility. We’ve also seen an incredible bond develop between the students, especially from the PGA Jr. League.”

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The PGA Jr. League at Atkinson

Doherty elaborates on this PGA program implemented in 2012 for youngsters ages 6 to 13. “It offers kids of all abilities an opportunity to play in a controlled, competitive environment and meet some new friends. Kids will play in a six-week program which offers one team practice and one match a week.

“This year, kids will receive a home and away jersey, t-shirt, hat, and a draw string bag.  Our facility offers kids an opportunity to practice at the Willowcreek Golf Academy throughout the six weeks. This is in addition to their weekly practice and match.” Willowcreek offers the most technologically advanced coaching facility in the Northeast. The 10,000 square foot golf training facility is dedicated to the education and advancement of all golfers.

The PGA Jr. League at Atkinson has grown from 12 kids in 2014 to 86 last year. In 2017, the program had eight teams for kids ages 6 to 13. The teams, separated by play level and age, play on Atkinson’s par 3 course or the front 9 of the championship course.

Doherty says that the quality of instructors is key. “I’m fortunate to have a few PGA Professionals on staff. One of the most important factors is keeping it fun. Each week, they focus on a different part of the game and incorporate games into their practices. The days of standing on the range just beating balls is over. “My instructors set up targets on the range. They play tic-tac-toe on the putting green and even occasionally have an obstacle course for kids to maneuver.”

Doherty relates that parents are impressed with the knowledge gained in these programs. “They seem to absolutely love it. Our playoff teams have done really well the past few years. Kids see that and strive to be a part of it. Parents have recognized that we have a successful program and therefore continue to sign their kids up with us.”

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Coach and Kids

Registration and information for 2018 Junior Golf Camps and the PGA Jr. League is available at atkinsonresort.com, and as always, expansion is the watchword.

“I’m always looking for ideas on how to grow the game,” Doherty explains. “This year, we’re incorporating a Junior Golf Night for families to come and learn about what Atkinson has to offer. This will include a roundtable with some of the members of our PGA Junior League team that made it to the national finals last year.

“We want our kids progressing at their pace. They start off in our beginner junior programs and move to some of the more advanced ones before entering some junior golf tournaments outside of Atkinson.

“We are a public facility and we offer programs starting at age four. We have a talented staff that is passionate about what they do. One of the most rewarding things is when our kids play in an event and do well. I love seeing their names up on a leaderboard with their home club saying they’re from Atkinson Resort & Country Club.”

John Molori is an author and columnist for numerous publications. Like him on Facebook at John Molori, Twitter @MoloriMedia. Email molorimedia@gmail.com.

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