Tommy Snell: Spend some time encouraging young golfers

According to the National Golf Foundation 30 million people in the US played golf in 2005.

In 2012, that number decreased to 28.3. Unfortunately, the trend continued until 2013 when 24.4 million golfers ages six and up hit the links. The good news? The number did not decrease in 2014. In 2004, only 800,000 girls ages 6-17 played golf, while 3.4 million boys the same age hit America's golf courses. In 2011, only 2.3 million juniors played golf, 500,000 girls and 1.8 million boys. The good news? That number increased to 3.2 million in 2014, with a million girls enjoying the sport. High school golf practice officially starts Monday. The Gulf Coast Junior Tour (GCJT) will begin in June. If the numbers are to grow, these juniors need encouragement, instruction and accommodation. The Mississippi Gulf Coast courses do their share. Coast courses invite high school teams and junior tours to play, and that's good for golf. The sport hooks them for life, and these juniors will become doctors, clergy, lawyers, engineers, bankers, accountants, postal workers, small business owners, hair stylists and barbers. All walks of life at any age can enjoy birdies, bogies and others. The challenge: to offer encouragement when the game seems a bit harsh; to instruct juniors on their swings, but more important on the values of etiquette, honesty and perseverance; to accommodate them; and to show patience when a few groups of future members carry their clubs and push their carts in front. Don't forget from whence you came. Most golfers were a part of a golf team or junior tour. Remember how much fun you had and how much you enjoyed a smile from members. Be a golf course greeter. Give a wave to the young Spieths. Thank a coach for spending time with these juniors. Trust me. They're not doing it for the money!

Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.