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Golf to inspire youth

Aboriginal golf association tees up

Just sitting for a few minutes listening to Patrick Kelly, it's hard not to get inspired.

At the suggestion of B.C. Lt.-Gov. Steven Point, this soft-spoken teacher has taken on a huge task that has national potential and offers aboriginal youth a healthy lifestyle choice.

The B.C. Aboriginal Golf Association is officially up and running.

"The idea for the B.C. Aboriginal Golf Association came up over a couple of rounds of golf I had with his Hon. Steven Point," says Kelly. "He wanted to use his opportunity as lieutenant-governor to promote and advance the health and well-being of young people in British Columbia, and wondered what we could do to advance the interest of aboriginal youth.

"I'd heard about the idea of an aboriginal golf association from many people for years but no one ever took the initiative and just did it. I said okay, well the time is now."

From there, Kelly used a network of contacts to get the ball rolling.

Immediate supporters included Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit, former Vancouver Canuck Gino Odjick and Tewannee Joseph of the Squamish Nation.

"Squamish Nation youth will see many positive role models pursuing healthy and productive lifestyles through the sport of golf," says Joseph. "Any one of them may strive to achieve their best, maybe even on the podium as a champion.

"I've seen several that have that potential but need a bit of structured support and opportunity to develop their talents."

Support from the lieutenant-governor's office opened a number of doors.

"When we decided to have the first discussion with the prospective board members, the lieutenant-governor hosted a lunch in Government House," says Kelly. "He's very keen to lend the stature and honour of the lieutenant-governor's office to the development of the BCAGA."

The BC Golf Association also played an important role.

"Kris Jonasson, executive director of the BC Golf Association, is very keen to support the BC Aboriginal Golf Association," says Kelly. "They've helped us with the structure of the organization and will collaborate with us on is player development. They have a very good player development program with professionals all across the province and they want to make those programs available to aboriginal golfers."

This year, Kelly's focus is on bringing together aboriginal golfers from across the province.

"This year we're going to be actively recruiting new members from across B.C. We're organizing the first annual provincial aboriginal golf tournament for the fall in Victoria which will attract a full slate of juniors, women and men. We'll also have a masters' category for those of us who are getting on but still keen to play and his Hon., the lieutenant-governor is providing the trophy."

It's an idea with national potential.

"I would see what we're doing here in British Columbia being a catalyst for doing the same kind of thing in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario," says Kelly. "There are aboriginal golfers all across this country."

Kelly's main focus, however, is providing aboriginal youth with a positive, healthy lifestyle choice.

"The sport of golf is a very ethical, manners-based sport. You learn a lot of etiquette, you learn a lot about the principles of honesty and respect for yourself and others. It helps young people keep a good perspective and a good attitude. My biggest satisfaction is helping provide the opportunity for young people to develop and grow."

If you'd like to find out more about the BC Aboriginal Golf Association, e-mail Patrick Kelly at patrick_kelly@telus.net.