NEWTON — While the spring high school golf season was erased by the COVID-19 pandemic, the membership base at Newton Country Club wanted to make sure the spirit of competition and love of the game did not fade away for Sussex County’s youth golfers.
The club’s Board of Trustees, inspired by former club president Jeff Bonham and current president Mike Briegel, came up with a solution. In the months of July and August, Newton Country Club will allow junior and senior golfers from the nine Sussex County high schools with golf programs to play at the 18-hole private club for free.
“We all love the game of golf, and it allows the youth to continue to enjoy that,” Briegel said. “This is a tough year for everybody across the board. It gives them a silver lining to the cloud that has befallen on all of us. I think it’s a really good program and can certainly give something back to the community and to these young golfers.”
In the eyes of Newton Country Club longtime PGA professional Robin Kohberger, it is “the best thing the club has ever done.”
The high school golfers will be able to play between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays and after 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and on the weekends and holidays.
When the calendar turned over to March, warm weather left high school golf teams optimistic about the start of their season. But the coronavirus never enabled them to get on the course for competition after high schools were closed by Gov. Phil Murphy on March 18.
Newton Country Club stepped up to try and fill that void.
“Newton Country Club is certainly a different caliber course,” Kittatinny head golf coach Matt Majka said. “In my opinion, it’s one of the nicer courses in the area. I think it’s really generous of them to open the course up to all the juniors and seniors. I think it’s a great gesture. I know my kids are very excited about it.”
The club has a long history of promoting golf at the youth level.
For more than a decade, Newton Country Club has hosted the New Jersey PGA’s Junior Masters Tournament where dozens of members volunteer to spot the tee shots of competitors over the course of the two-day event.
The club hosted the NJSIAA’s North 1 and 2, Group 1 tournament in 2019 and was set to do so again this spring before the season was canceled. It is also the home course to the Newton and Pope John high school golf programs.
“Newton Country Club has always been incredibly supportive of junior golf, particularly the Newton and Pope John programs, which play there,” Pope John head coach Brian St. John said. “When Jeff and a couple of the other members were floating this idea around, it goes to show you how great they are but also how much they want to invest in junior golf in the greater Sussex County area. I can’t speak enough good things about Mr. Bonham and the rest of the group over there.”
St. John said the financial savings will be incredible for junior golfers, while Majka was hopeful that it will give members of his Cougars team the chance to play together once again.
Either way, after high school golfers were pushed off the links for the entirety of their season, Newton Country Club made sure that their absence did not have to be extended any longer.
“Obviously, it gives back to the community and we’re certainly willing to do that and able to do that,” Briegel said. “We look forward to doing that. It’s something that can help the youth, the young golfers in the community. We’re certainly happy to extend that offer to them.”
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