EAST MOLINE — The Quad City Amateur Tour board made a concerted effort this year to make headway into attracting younger golfers into summer tournament play.
By the looks of things at this weekend's Short Hills Amateur, that attempt is paying off. In the 52-player field are 15 young golfers competing in the newly created student-athlete division, which offers scholarships to those who are QCAm Tour members.
“The junior game is there, it's just a matter of how do we tap into it and how do we get them to play the QCAm Tour,” said Jamie Hallstrom, QCAm Tour board member. “We've known for a while that it's a good product, but we also know we have to get younger and we know there are a lot of good golfers in the area. The goal was how do we get them playing on this tour.”
Apparently, one of the keys was upping the social media presence and reaching out through word of mouth to those playing at the high school and collegiate levels. That's where the efforts of first-year staffers Keil Huber and Danielle Henricksen have paid huge dividends.
Eric Spurgetis, Jacob Deitrich and Peyton Perez all have ties to the Black Hawk College golf team where Huber played and his dad, Gary, coached. They were among the 15 playing this weekend at Short Hills and credited Keil, along with Henricksen's social media work, for making them aware of what the QCAm Tour had to offer.
“They have an excellent social media page,” said Perez.
The scholarship money is also a strong enticement. The top three in the male student-athlete division will earn financial aid ($2,500 to first-place, $1,000 to second place, and $500 to third). On the women's side, the top two placers will earn $750 and $250. Those payouts are based on the number of players in each category.
“Without that, to be honest, I'd probably be playing in the club championship at Oakwood,” said Moline's Spurgetis, who played two years at BHC and is transferring to St. Ambrose this fall. “Instead, I'm trying to get my name in that scholarship hunt.”
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The competition, though, is also a key. Tyler Bussert competed on the QCAm Tour before the student-athlete division was created and credited his summer competition with helping him be prepared to win a Class A state title and help the Riverdale Rams to a state team title
The youngest participant this weekend — Kacie Knary, a 15-year-old sophomore-to-be at Moline High School — is hoping for the same payoff.
“Playing the white tees, like I will in college, is testing my game,” said Knary, “as is playing with the college girls.”
She joked that her 9-hole high school matches “will be a breeze” from the red tees after QCAm Tour competition.
The guys are also enjoying being able to step up the competition as Deitrich and Perez had both played junior events in the Peoria area this summer as well.
“It's nice to come out here and compete against the older guys, but at the same time you're in you're own student-athlete division and can compare your game both ways,” said Deitrich, a sophomore-to-be at BHC from Carthage.
It appears as if the QCAm Tour's biggest drive of the season is setting the stage for long-term relationships as well, as the kids in the field have been drawn in.
Leading the way: In Saturday's opening round, Andy Sirois took the lead in the Championship Flight and Dave Waugh topped the Senior Flight.
Sirois made his move on the back nine, carding a 3-under 33 that offset a four-hole bogey stretch on the front side as he carded an even-par 72 that had him a shot ahead of Dave Schurke. Waugh parlayed an eagle on the par-5 13th into a 32-on the inward nine of his 3-under 69 and a six-stroke lead heading into today's final round.