BRJGT golf

Austin Boyce, right, watches a putt slide across the green Sunday afternoon at Fincastle Country Club. At left is Debbie Kitts, one of the instructors at the preseason clinic of the Blue Ridge Junior Golf Tour.

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Even at the end of the school year, even on a Sunday, learning was going on for 62 young people on a sunny afternoon on the foothills of East River Mountain. In this case, having a golf ball in front of them made the learning fun.

The Blue Ridge Junior Golf Tour (BRJGT) put a dozen small groups of golfers through a nine-hole “Golf by the Rules” clinic at Fincastle Country Club in preparation for this summer’s seven tour stops.

“Each hole presents a different situation,” said BRJGT vice president Vic Sorrell Jr., “so they’re getting hands-on experience before they even play in a tournament.”

Those situations included determining an out-of-bounds ball; dealing with “loose impediments;” working around abnormal ground conditions such as casual water pooling on a course; and landing in water hazards — simulated on Sunday by a set of red stakes.

There was even a hole on which the children received advice about receiving advice. The rules say that while on a hole, participants are not allowed to share information with each other or to ask for help other than getting official rulings.

Clinic instructors included Ron Satterfield, a USGA rules official; Debbie Kitts, a referee with the Virginia State Golf Association women’s division; and Peyton Tierney.

While the children were on the sun-flooded course, a group of 53 adults — mostly parents — sat in the clubhouse with BRJGT Director of Tournament Operations DeWayne Belcher.

They watched a video on etiquette and golf rules, then engaged in an extensive question-and-answer session that ran the gamut from signing a correct scorecard to figuring out what shirt to wear to tournaments.

On the course, Sorrell pointed out with satisfaction that all the boys’ shirts were tucked in and caps were on straight, in keeping with the tour rules.

The tour is not all about length of drive and sureness of putting.

“They get so much more out of the Blue Ridge than just golf,” Sorrell said. “Our motto is ‘Building Character and Sportsmanship through Golf.’

“They build lasting relationships. The develop life values like discipline and honesty. That’s one thing we’re adamant about on the tour ... absolutely no cheating.”

“They learn respect for one another, and for the game of golf, and for the course they’re playing.

“We encourage them, when they play on a course, to go in and thank the personnel for allowing them to play.”

“We want for the kids to have a good time and to do their best ... but to do it within the right framework, to play the game as it was intended.”

The tour is for boys and girls through age 18, and stops include Fountain Springs near Peterstown, Fincastle, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, Tazewell County Country Club, Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon.

The season-ending event on July 27-28 is a 36-hole championship at Virginia Tech’s Pete Dye River Course.

Participants qualify by earning points throughout the season in their age group.

Sorrell said the 11th year of the tour has a roster of 135 participants, “which is a nice increase from last year.” Some years show dips, followed by rebounds. “You know, it kind of goes in waves,” Sorrell said.

He said it was “fantastic” to welcome eight girls to the tour this year. The previous high had been three females.

Sorrell speculated that friends were spreading the word. “Probably a couple of girls got interested, and they went back and included some of their friends,” he said.

More information about the tour, including entry fees, may be found at www.brjgt.com.

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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