Junior golf grows in Minnesota thanks to Royal Golf Club's unique Short Course program

Junior golf grows in Minnesota thanks to Royal Golf Club's unique Short Course program

Amateur

Junior golf grows in Minnesota thanks to Royal Golf Club's unique Short Course program

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LAKE ELMO, Minn.  – As one of the premier events in women’s college golf, this week’s ANNIKA Intercollegiate Presented by 3M features six of Golfweek’s top 10 preseason teams and some of the nation’s best individual players.

All 60 women competing in Lake Elmo have their own story of how they found the game of golf, and Royal Golf Club, the host course for the event, is helping to usher in the next generation of talent.

Sunday’s kickoff event for the sixth ANNIKA Intercollegiate featured a car show, live band, and most importantly, a junior clinic.

Players and coaches from the 12-team field, led by the host University of Minnesota and Annika Sorenstam, helped young players ages 6-12 on the Royal Golf Club’s Short Course, a unique six-hole experience tailored to help junior golfers learn the game.

Royal Golf Club’s 18-hole championship course’s first nine holes, known as the Queen’s Nine, were designed by Sorenstam, while the last nine, known as the King’s Nine, were designed by the late Arnold Palmer. Royal Golf Club majority owner Hollis Cavner, a longtime friend of Palmer’s, said he had a vision for the short course before the property opened two years ago.

“I told Arnold, ‘I want to do something special for the kids and junior golf. We need to get kids playing, and it can’t cost anything,’” said Cavner after the clinic.

The King was all for it, even though both he and Cavner knew it wasn’t a smart financial move giving up valuable real estate on the property. But Cavner and Palmer were smart enough to realize that growing the game doesn’t start with the money. It starts with the kids.

“The short course is the best thing around,” said Bill Josten, a local golfer who plays with his twin 8-year-old daughters once every week or two. “They absolutely love it.”

The girls have been playing golf since they were 4 years old and are just one example of the numerous kids and families enjoying the course. Earlier this summer, four generations of a family were out playing, teaching the granddaughter.

But the genius of the course isn’t just its welcoming nature.

If kids don’t have clubs, sets are loaned from the pro shop “like a library book.”

Kids 18 and under play for free, while adults are asked to make “donations” of $10 per round or $75 for an annual membership, which is put into a unique fund for the program. That money at the end of the year is then used to buy clubs for kids who rented during the previous year.

“We want to remove every obstacle a kid has besides getting here,” said the club’s head golf professional Shawn Weisen, who added that kids have priority on the Short Course and pay their age to play the 18-hole course.

Short Course holes are named and based off famous courses as a way to tell a history of the game’s great venues. The final hole is the longest, based off Oakmont, at 98 yards. The shortest hole, No. 2, plays 34 yards and is based off Royal Troon’s “Postage Stamp.”

“I would’ve killed to have something like this growing up,” said Cavner. “This is good for golf, that’s what matters.”

Wake Forest women’s associate head coach Ryan Potter has two daughters, so watching the college players help the juniors was special for him.

“(Former Wake Forest star Jennifer Kupcho) winning the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the cool part there was seeing all the little girls watch the grown girls play golf, and it was the same thing here,” Potter said. “There’s something to be said about growing the game, but at the same time, it was great for our girls to get a different perspective. There’s a bigger purpose.”

Southern California head coach Justin Silverstein said it was good for his team to give back “to the kids that they were” when they were junior players.

“It was really fun to get away from competition,” said the Trojans’ Alyaa Abdulghany. “It’s really nice to see what the next generation looks like.”

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