Mitchell Thiessen

Mitchell Thiessen

Golf guru has issues with elitist tag

A new golf academy at Sardis secondary school has taken fire from opponents of pay-to-play academies in public schools.

Sardis secondary school will launch a golf academy this fall, and Jennifer Greggain is very proud of that.

The former LPGA pro is determined to build up grass-roots golf in Chilliwack, and this is an important first step. Greggain, the head instructor at Chilliwack Golf and Country Club, believes she can open doors that have been closed to young golfers in this community.

Yet before anyone swings a club, the academy has already come under fire.

In a Progress article in mid-March, the president of the Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questioned the wisdom of introducing pay-to-play programs in public schools.

The Sardis academy, for instance, is going to cost students  $2,000 per year.

“I want trustees to really think about what bringing all these academies to a public education system that’s supposed to be free, accessible and equal for all students is really doing,” Katharin Midzain questioned. “When students are having to pay $800 to $2,000 to participate, that’s not free, accessible or equal.”

Breaking down the price tag, Greggain says the Sardis academy compares very favourably to anything else that’s out there.

The academy running out of Seaquam secondary school in Delta runs students in excess of $4,000.

“Of the golf academies offered in British Columbia, we come in at one of lowest for tuition cost, and one of the highest for the qualifications of our instructors,” Greggain noted. “If you were to seek out this kind of specialized training outside of a school, you’d be paying double, triple or even more than that. Bringing this into a school allows us to offer the training at the lowest cost possible.”

The Sardis academy offers 80 hours of instruction from Greggain and Brad Clapp, two fully-certified people with glowing golf resumes. Students get cutting edge video analysis and customized training geared to their strengths and weaknesses.

“We’re creating a viable transition for students who are looking to play golf at the university level,” Greggain said. “There are scholarships available, and we can help our students connect to those opportunities. Chilliwack has always been kind of looked over in the past.”

Fair enough, but the Sardis academy still costs a lot of money, and requires students to hold a membership at CG&CC. Not all families have the financial flexibility to pull that off, and critics say that could shut the doors that Greggain wants to open.

“If a student came to me and said they were really passionate about bringing their game to the next level, then we’re certainly going to help them do that,” Greggain countered. “For students demonstrating economic hardship, there are options available. If someone wants to be a part of this, we’re going to find a way to make it happen.”

Even if her students never secure a scholarship or go on to golf at a reasonably high level, Greggain believes they will benefit being involved with something they truly care about.

“Golf is a very unique game that teaches a lot of life skills that are valuable not just on a golf course, but in the classroom or at home,” Greggain said. “How far they go with this will depend on their determination and commitment. Chilliwack has lacked resources in the past. We’re going to give them this chance, and how far they go with it is up to them.”

The Sardis academy will be hosting an open house on April 19 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Email Greggain for info at jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com.