“Oh, it would be well into the thousands.”
Jamie McCallum can’t help but laugh when asked to consider just how many junior golfers he might have worked with during his time as a PGA Professional. Even a ballpark figure doesn’t bear thinking about for the 2021 PGA National Coach of the Year – Game Development, who delivers a range of programs to budding youngsters every day at the thriving Albert Park Driving Range.
“Between school holiday clinics, school groups and our own MyGolf program, yeah, it’s a lot,” he laughs.
A former Australian Tour player himself, McCallum understands that fostering a love of the game relies on having strong role models to show the way, something he was lucky enough to enjoy when he came to the game as a 12-year-old.
“I got lessons from a PGA Professional at that time from Ian Donnelly at Keilor Golf Club,” recalls McCallum. “He instilled all the basic fundamentals in me from the start; things like my grip and stance.
“From there, I just became addicted. I started to love the game and would play whenever I could.”
Although the notion of getting hooked on the game in such a way is not uncommon, McCallum appreciates that he was very fortunate to have received the level of care and attention that he did from Donnelly. So, once he became a PGA Professional himself, McCallum sought to offer the same experience to every young golfer he came across.
“I’ve taken his lessons into my own coaching,” he explains. “A lot of the way he went about it with me as a junior has shaped my philosophy today.”
Beyond the stance, grip and swing, McCallum believes that when it comes to junior coaching, PGA Professionals have a broader responsibility to tee up youngsters for success, whatever that looks like for them.
He remains a firm believer that golf is a game that should be enjoyed for life, and that a positive introduction to the sport goes a long way to ensuring people have the desire – and the basic skills – to pick up a golf club whenever they may want to later in life.
“All I want to do is introduce them to the greatest game there is,” McCallum smiles. “I stress to every kid that you can play this game for life; with family, friends, at university and even work. You can have a good skill for life and I just love the whole picture of that.”
Not in the game to produce a production line of Tour professionals, though he is quick to point out that if any junior does have the desire to follow a high-performance pathway, he would be keen to support their journey, McCallum’s philosophy to his work is delightfully simple.
“I just want to make sure they all have the most enjoyable experience possible.”
To make that happen, McCallum employs a wide range of techniques to engage kids of varying ages, abilities and even interest levels. A combination of mini games, competitions, slightly more specific drills and even the odd prank has kept them coming back over more than a decade.
“Sometimes I mix in one of those exploding balls on the tee,” he laughs. “That’s the sort of thing that sticks in the minds of kids and you can see their faces light up with excitement.”
It’s that pure joy on the faces of the next generation that lights up McCallum, too. From helping a junior clinic group get a photo with Usain Bolt, to running a MyGolf promotion in partnership with triple-Premiership player, Tom Hawkins, McCallum is always keen to create lasting memories at the golf course.
“They remember these things, and it makes it enjoyable for them.”
He also knows that coaching juniors isn’t for everyone, but considers it one of the great privileges of being a PGA Professional that gets to play such an integral role in the development of young people.
An honourable outlook, it is just part of his nature and happily it is golf that allows McCallum to express it every day.
“I love mentoring and working with young people,” he explains. “Not everyone is suited to it, but it works for me and my personality so I actually find it quite easy.”
A source of fulfilment as well, McCallum is happiest when he can see that juniors he has coached in the past, maintain their association with the game in one form or another. From those who pop back to the range and share a memory about a particular clinic, to those he has helped secure work in the industry, McCallum knows that as a PGA Professional, he has the chance to make a lasting impact.
“What we are doing is much more rounded than just golf.
“We are instilling life skills as well as golf skills.”
PGA Professionals are delivering junior clinics right around the country. MyGolf is Australia’s national junior coaching program; delivered under the guidance of a PGA Professional, it is the perfect way to get started in the game.