Earlier this week the Northern Utah Junior Golf Tour wrapped up its eighth season with a championship tournament at Logan River Golf Course.
Boys and girls ranging from 4 to 17 years participated in 2021. There were 172 kids from northern Utah and southern Idaho that played this summer.
Erik Skinner created the tour, mainly because he and his wife, Deana, got tired of driving their kids to Ogden to compete. The assistant golf professional at the Logan Golf & Country Club and assistant coach for the men’s golf team at Utah State University got the local courses involved, as well as Eagle Mountain in Brigham City.
“I never thought it would grow this big; it’s been great,” Skinner said. “I thought there was a need for youth golf in the valley. We were traveling down south every week for my kids to play. I thought there was a need.”
Youth from all over Cache Valley play on the tour, as well as from Grace, Idaho, the Bear Lake area, Brigham City and Ogden. An average of 100 to 110 youth participated each week, but there were many more in the grand total that played at least one tournament during the eight weeks of action this summer. Tournaments are held each Monday.
“The last two years we have grown quite a bit,” Skinner said. “This is the most kids we’ve ever had play on a weekly basis was this year. It’s good exposure to the game of golf and good growth for the game of golf.”
The tour started on June 7 this year. There were events at Birch Creek Golf Course, Logan Golf & Country Club, Logan River Golf Course and Eagle Mountain Golf Course. There is a point system to determine the season winners in various age groups.
“It’s based on the FedEx Cup points like the PGA Tour does,” Skinner said. “The top four qualify for match play at the end of the season. ... It’s been good. The little kids are great. It was awesome and we even had one go to extra holes. It’s nice for them to learn.”
There is no instruction right now. Each week is a tournament where the kids just play, either nine holes or 18, depending on age. Skinner said instruction may be added in the future. He is also working on possibly having a “border war” with golfers from another state.
“I try to add something each year to grow it and bring in better players,” Skinner said. “... The golf pros at each of the courses have been excellent to work with. We’ve got some great golf professionals here in the valley. They love the game and want to grow the game of golf, and have allowed me to grow the game of golf through this. It’s fun to watch.”
The game has grown, and it is paying off.
“We are starting to see the rewards,” Skinner said. “Some of our first group was the Ridgeline (High School) girls that won state. They were some of the first girls that started playing in this. It’s been fun to watch the kids grow and develop.”
A big portion of the participants are high school age boys and girls. The boys age group of 15-17 had 47 different players compete in a tournament this summer. In the girls 15-17 age group, there were 17. In the boys age group of 13-14, there were 54, broken down into a blue tees group (29) and white tees group (25).
“I’ve been practicing more for about a year,” said Maysen McKay, a 15-year-old from Smithfield. “It was really fun this summer. ... I’ve met a lot of people that go to different schools, so that is good.”
Many parents of the youth called it “a really neat event.”
Maysen and her 12-year-old sister, Eva McKay, made it to match play. They have both been playing the game for a few years. This was their first time playing on this tour.
“I liked getting to play with different people, trying to do my best and having fun,” Eva said.
Maysen has been on the Sky View girls golf team and will be a sophomore this upcoming school year. Ava also wants to play high school golf when she is old enough. Both sisters golf at Birch Creek, so that is their favorite course.
“I think Birch is the easiest, but that is where I golf the most,” Maysen said.
“I like Birch Creek the best too,” Eva said.
The youngsters were partial to the course they are familiar with. Nine-year-old Dax Norman from Paradise likes Logan River.
“Logan River is a pretty nice course, and I just like it,” Dax said.
Dax has been playing on the tour each summer since he was four. In fact, he was the top golfer for his age group, but was modest when asked how he did by replying, “pretty good.”
“I like to meet different people every year,” Dax said. “And I want to try and play in high school.”
And what is his strength?
“I like putting,” Dax said. “I would say I’m pretty good.”
Top finishers for the season and their age group included: Boys 4-6 — Stihl Bales; Boys 7-8 — Landen Smith; Boys 9-10 — Dax Norman; Boys 11-12 — Beckham Skinner; Boys 13-14, Blue Tees — Tyler Jackman; Boys 13-14, White Tees — Trevor Labrum; Boys 15-17 — Zach Skinner; Girls 4-6 — Lucy Summers; Girls 7-8 — Cora Dyer; Girls 9-10 — Preslee Major; Girls 11-12 — Jorie Norman; Girls 13-14 — Maddie Fujimoto; Girls 15-17 — Taya Sickler.