DanvilleSanRamon.com

Sports - June 22, 2007

Danville man starts new junior golf league

Program offers chance for young golfers to try new courses

by Rachel McMurdie

From the first time he picked up a golf club and set his foot on the green, Danville's Michael Lucas knew golf would always be a part of his life. Today, he works as a financial advisor for First Allied in San Ramon, but that hasn't stopped him from staying involved with the sport he loves.

"I came from a family of golfers," Lucas said. "Everyone who knows me knows it's my No. 1 passion."

So when friends complained there was no local junior golf league, he decided to start his own.

Lucas Golf Group will begin its inaugural season this summer with seven tournaments and three clinics. The competitive junior golf program will be open to boys and girls ages 13-18 and feature a cumulative ranking system, individual tournament scores, and trophies to the top three players of each age group. The tour will feature an award ceremony where the category winners will each be awarded a green winner's jacket, reminiscent of the red jackets awarded at the Masters.

The whole program will cost $1,250, the price some golfers pay to play in a single national tournament, Lucas points out. He says he hopes the league will give local kids an outlet to competitive golf year-round, and offer them the opportunity to play golf courses they might not otherwise have access to.

"I have fond memories of the competitive junior golf program I was involved in when I was growing up in Santa Barbara," he said. "It taught me not only about golf, but many life skills I have used during my 15-year career.

"In speaking with my friends, and as a parent with kids, it seems like there's just not one in the area," he continued. "There's clubs and camps, but no local competitive league in the East Bay. I always knew I wanted to do this, to start a league, so it seemed like the perfect place to start."

Brain Barr, head golf coach at San Ramon Valley High, said that while he was not familiar with Lucas Golf Group, he is happy to see competitive golf programs expand in the area.

"It's great to see another opportunity for the kids," Barr said. "Any opportunity to play competitively is going to help them."

Of the 14 golfers on the San Ramon Valley High School team, the majority also play golf on their own year round. But only a few of them stay dedicated to teams or serious competition.

Varsity team captain Mike Perchak is one of four SRV golfers who competes in national tournaments. This summer, the incoming senior also plans to attend an Arizona State Golf Camp and compete in the California Junior Tour in the winter.

"Anything that we can do to stay competitive is good," he said.

He said the local program might appeal to some of his teammates who currently were playing on their own and give them a chance to scope out their local competition.

"I think it would be fun to play some of the people we play in high school and to be able to watch how everyone does," Perchak said.

There are 53 golf courses within an 18-mile radius of Danville. Several, like the Bridges Golf Club at Gale Ranch in San Ramon, offer camps and summer- or year-round passes especially for junior golfers. National leagues, such as the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), the Junior Golf Association of Northern California, and open tours, such as the Future Collegians World Tour, and the California Junior Tour, are also available to local teens.

But Lucas hopes his league, with its local focus, will open doors for competitive players who aren't yet ready to make the commitment to national leagues, which he says can be costly to participate in, with infrequent games. He thinks his league could perhaps act as a stepping-stone to the national league or to the varsity high school team, and offer kids and teens another outlet for competitive play.

"I was raised to think that if you don't get in the line of fire, in practice, you're not going to be ready in an actual game," Lucas said. "There's nothing like competition to teach kids how to compete."

The schedule Lucas has created will allow junior golfers to work on different aspects of their game, utilizing the area's local public courses. Poppy Ridge for example features wide-open links perfect for long-shots, while Dublin Ranch will let golfers work on their short game. Lucas said he hopes young golfers will be able to build skills and their level of dedication to the sport through team.

Lucas Golf Group's summer program will begin July 11 and run through the weekend of Aug. 13. Visit www.tournevents.com/lucasgolfgroup.

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