GRAND RAPIDS – The inaugural Youth on Course Celebration Day presented by the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) Foundation Monday at Indian Trails Golf Course raised over $50,000 and gave dozens of young golfers, parents and a few grandparents a day of golf fun.
“What was raised far exceeded my expectations, and I think it shows the foundation is really connecting with people through Youth on Course,” said Chris Whitten, executive director of the GAM.
Youth on Course is a national initiative administered in Michigan by the GAM Foundation, which makes golf available at participating courses for $5 or less to young golfers ages 6-18.
Indian Trails GC, a Youth on Course participating facility, has been serving the Grand Rapids area since 1928, and was where current GAM President, Mark Bultema of Grand Rapids, was introduced to golf. Bultema led the charge in creating the event.
“Mark’s a planner and he had a great vision for it, both parts, the fundraising to support the kids and then welcoming the kids and letting them play golf. It was a special afternoon, and because of all the good planning of Mark and the GAM staff, I thought it just went beautifully.”
Whitten said the funds will be used by the GAM Foundation in subsidizing the participating courses like Indian Trails that offer youngsters golf for $5 or less.
“Last year we paid out over $225,000 in subsidies to participating courses, and to be fair that’s a negotiated rate,” he said. “They have skin in the game, too. They are working with us on a rate that makes it possible. It means in the end it’s going to be good for the game of golf in Michigan because we’ll keep growing it for everybody and making it more and more accessible. The funds raised today will help pay for a lot of golf rounds.”
The morning fundraiser featured GAM volunteers and officers, including Bultema and Whitten, who collected pledges based on completing as many holes as they could between 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Some completed 40 or more holes.
Donations can be made to the Youth on Course fundraisers via the GAM website. To donate click here.
The afternoon started with a putting clinic from Blythefield Country Club’s PGA Director of Instruction Andre Pillow, the 2021 Michigan PGA Player Development Award winner.
Then Youth on Course member youngsters took to the course for a tournament with awards handed out in in divisions flighted by age and gender and including an adult/child division.
Bultema said he started playing the game at age eight at the city-owned Indian Trails Golf Course in Grand Rapids and he enjoys helping youngsters find a similar path.
“I had a chance recently to look back on my life’s journey and the one thing that has been a constant is the enjoyment I have had playing golf,” Bultema said. “The most memorable times I have are playing with my two children, their spouses and my seven grandchildren. What a blessing, and it all started when I was eight years old and my first round of golf at Indian Trails. I would have been one of the Youth On Course members if the program had been available.”
Whitten said the GAM team enjoyed getting to meet Youth on Course members.
“We believe it’s worthy supporting them as a kind of from behind-the-scenes perspective, but to hear first-hand how much they’re using the program and getting on the course because of it was really rewarding,” he said. “It keeps us excited to make it even better.”