The life blood of any sport is attracting new participants.
The failure to lure the next generation of players will eventually doom any game.
The organizers of the York County Junior Golf Association know that better than anyone.
That's why, each summer, the YCJGA offers area kids of all ability levels an opportunity to learn and appreciate the sport.
The new YCJGA season will begin on June 17 with an event at Cool Creek Golf Club. That will be the first of six regular-season tour stops.
That will be followed by the George Barton Match Play Championship at Grandview Golf Club on July 29-30.
The season will close with the annual War of the Roses contest on Aug. 8 at Meadia Heights in Lancaster, which will pit York County's top junior golfers against Lancaster County's best in a Ryder Cup-style event.
The YCJGA annually attracts more than 100 youngsters. That's a good number, but the organization would like to see it grow.
"We'd like to get more girls into the program and we also would like to strengthen the boys' side," said Dave Childress, the new president of the YCJGA board.
Childress, who is also the Spring Grove High School coach, believes that golf offers some lessons that other sports do not.
"When I went to my first high school match as a coach I was absolutely stunned at how these kids walked down the fairway encouraging each other to play well. You don't see that in a lot of sports. Most sports are focused on win, win, win. Our program is casual, but very competitive. That's the way golf is meant to be played. I think the sport offers a lot of life lessons."
Some of the golfers on the YCJGA Tour are simply outstanding, regularly posting scores in the 60s. But the tour caters to all levels of players. There's a nine-hole division for beginners, a girls' division, a boys' 14-and-under division and two boys' 18-and-under divisions, one of which plays from the white tees and one of which plays from the championship blue tees.
At the end of the season, the YCJGA Cup will be awarded to the outstanding player in each division. Those winners will be determined using a point system based on finishes in YCJGA events. The top three finishers in the 15-18 Boys' Blue Division will earn an entry into the prestigious York County Men's Amateur Championship. Isaiah Logue earned an entry in this manner in 2013 and ended up winning the Amateur in impressive fashion.
The YCJGA also has a new tournament director this season in Sydney Gasche, an assistant pro from Royal Manchester Golf Links. He also has some plans to improve the tour.
"We're trying to make it more enticing for players," he said. "A lot of the really good players want to play in more exclusive events. We're offering more incentives to play in the YCJGA, such as better awards. We're improving the trophies and changing the point system. Junior golfers are the future of the game. If we don't get juniors involved we don't have an industry anymore."
The YCJGA organizers, with the financial help of tour sponsor Eggland's Best and many area courses, have made it fairly cheap to compete. The cost for the 18-hole program is $60 to play, plus $15 per event. The nine-hole program costs $40, plus $8 per event. Anyone who plays golf knows those rates are inexpensive.
It's definitely a program that's worth checking out.
Golf is a lifetime sport that offers a large number of long-term benefits for its participants. But it's sometimes viewed as an old man's sport. The YCJGA is trying to change that perspective.
And it starts with getting more youngsters involved in the game.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the YCJGA, email email@example.com.