OLATHE, Kan. — The future will be here before you know it. Golf needs its next generation of players and fans if it expects to survive.
Kansas City’s own eight-time major champion Tom Watson is busy promoting several programs meant to stir a youth movement in the sport he helped make famous.
On Saturday, Watson, now 73, helped open the new Wee Links golf course at Heritage Park in Olathe. It’s meant for the smallest swingers to adopt a love for golf.
Kids of all ages can pay $3 to try this unique track, which offers six holes that measure 30 yards apiece. The cups are 50% larger. Those sizes are chosen with younger players in mind to make the game easier to learn.
“They’ll be able to bring the kids out here and start the kids who’ve never played golf before on this little Wee Links golf course,” Watson said.
Wee Links is the invention of Eudora’s Jeff Burey, who believes learning golf should be fun for kids. He and Watson remember a time when children weren’t encouraged to learn this sport. The Wee Links course at Heritage Park is operated by Johnson County Parks and Rec.
“Golf has to be fun. Fun will motivate for a while, but really what will motivate is getting better. By playing the Wee Links, kids will all improve. That will keep them playing,” Burey said.
“(The Wee Links course) is small. It’s good for little kids. I love it because it’s easier to play and I love the big cup,” said Graham Hosler, a junior golf from Kansas City.
Not only is the Wee Links golf course short, but it’s fast, too. The average six-hole round of Wee Links golf takes about 15 minutes to play.
Watson is also actively promoting mentorship through his Watson Links program, which pre-approves adult golfers to accompany kids to a series of 10 metro golf courses, where they’ll play at no cost. The adult is encouraged to help the junior golfer learn the game along the way.
“The mentors are people who have a passion for the game and a passion for playing golf and giving their passion to the kids on a golf course,” Watson explained. “My goal is to get 200 new players playing the game.”
Watson Links is a cooperative effort with The First Tee of Greater Kansas City, where thousands of kids get their first opportunity to try golf. Many young golfers go on to participate in tournaments operated by Central Links and U.S. Kids Golf Kansas City.