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Optimist tournament provides opportunity for area youngsters

The Minot Optimist Club will be hosting its second annual junior golf tournament today at 9 a.m. today at the Souris Valley Golf Course.

Today’s event is the local region-qualifier for boys between 16 and 18 years of age as well as girls between ages of 15-18. The tournament is part of the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship, which is one of the biggest and most popular junior golf tournaments in the world.

The winners from today’s meet will receive an all-expense paid trip to the region meet to be held on Sunday at Riverwood Golf Course in Bismarck. The Minot Optimist Club and its sponsors will pick up the tab for the winners to travel to Bismarck. All other area golfers are also welcome to participate in Sunday’s region meet, they just have to cover all the costs.

“We can’t hold a tournament until the high school season is over,” tournament co-chairman Jeff Balantine said. “The Class A season ended (Wednesday) so we have to (move quickly).”

The region winners then advance to the national championship to be held in Florida next month. The region winners will have travel expenses paid by their regional Optimist Club.

The purpose of the event is to encourage youth to get involved in golf.

“We are friends of youth,”Balentine said. “We do things other things throughout the year.”

Balentine says there will be a golf tournament for younger kids in August.

As for today’s event, Optimist golf tournaments for six different age groups – three each for boys and girls. However, the local chapter is only holding it for the two oldest groups.

In 2015, there were only six individuals who came out for the region-qualifying event in Minot

But with the regional tournament in Minneapolis, Balentine suspects that may have hurt the turnout.

“Last year, there may have been travel complications,” he said.

But with the region-qualifier in Bismarck, Balentine is hopeful to get twice as many golfers out this season.

“We’re hoping for 10 to 20 this year,” he said.

Optimist have been involved in junior golf for more than 30 years, and have held local, regional and international tournament. Each year, Optimist tournaments bring out more than 5,000 golfers to participate.

Some of golf’s greatest players Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Davis Love III, Tiger Woods, Michelle McGann and Nancy Lopez got their start in the sport through Optimist-sponsored tournaments.

Mark Jones covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @hoopsfan27-MDN.

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