Youngest golfers out to have fun


He stood there with an expression of confidence as he measured his putt. His black hat, red shirt and black pants are always what he wears on championship day. There was no stopping him on this day as he beat his closest competitor by 14 strokes.

This could be a characterization of Tiger Woods on championship Sunday as long as it is not at the British Open - but it is actually a description of a golfer imitating his golf hero.

"We tried to call him Tigger Woods," said Kim Gauthier, mother of Roger Gauthier, the champion of the six and under boys division at Tuesday's Yampa River Junior Classic. "But he absolutely refuses any nickname except Tiger."

The young champion from Glenwood Springs shot a 33 on four mini-holes to win his division and earn his first gold medal.

"It is good to get them started early so they can have a hobby," Kim Gauthier said. "It makes it worth it because the junior programs are improving and giving the kids better opportunities."

The girls six and under champion was Caitlin Harjes from Craig. She has some golf in her blood with her dad, Ken Harjes, being the Moffat County High School boys golf coach. Tuesday was Caitlin's first tournament and some of her first experiences playing golf came this summer at a clinic at the Yampa Valley Golf Course in June.

"I want to keep playing because it is fun to improve," Caitlin said. "My favorite part is when I putt the ball in the hole."

Since "Tiger mania" created plenty of interest in the sport several years ago, golfing has started to become a more popular sport for youth.

"There was definitely a big boom three or four years ago for youth golf," said YVGC golf pro Tom Dockstader. "It is becoming easier access for early starters with a big push for club manufacturers to make clubs for the little ones,"

"I like to get to play myself instead of being my brother's caddie," said Taylor Morris, who finished second in the six and under girls division. "I used to watch him but now I like to play him, although I'll probably never beat him."

As a coach and father, Ken Harjes said starting at an early age, if done right, can be very beneficial.

"Just like in any sport it is good just to let them go out and have fun," he said. "It is good for them just to go out and hit some balls."

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