By BOB STRICKLEY
PDT Sports Editor
After five years of organizing the youth tournaments of the Tri-State Junior Golf Tour, Portsmouth’s Tyson Phillips is handing over the reigns to the father-and-son combination of Joe and Jason VanDeusen.
The golf tour consists of eight area tournaments, two in the Portsmouth area at Shawnee State Park Golf Course and The Elks Country Club, for children ages 10 to 18.
In March, Phillips decided to officially step aside for the tour’s 30th season to spend more time with his family, focus on his duties as the Portsmouth High School girls basketball coach and because of the trust he has in Jason and Joe VanDeusen.
“I think Jason and Joe are going to be great with the kids and the game,” Phillips said. “It’s the right time for me to step away because the tour will be in great hands and my son is starting to get involved in golf and I didn’t want to take away from the basketball players at Portsmouth.”
The tour’s leadership remains in the hands of locals as Joe, a Wheelersburg resident and Jason, a teacher at Portsmouth Junior High School, step into the vacated shoes of Phillips.
Jason played on the tour and won a tournament as a high school sophomore. Years later, he recalls the lessons the tour provided him as a young athlete.
“It’s a great way to build friendships with other golfers and it teaches you sportsmanship lessons that last a lifetime,” Jason said. “It’s a competitive atmosphere for the kids to hone their skills.”
Phillips echoed the benefits of participating in the tour and said the competition created by players vying for the coveted Player of the Year award molds them into better golfers.
“When I was a kid, all the guys played the Tri-State Junior Tour,” Phillips said. “Golf is different when you are playing with your mom and dad or friends. With your friends, if you hit a bad shot you might just put down another ball and try again. With tournament golf, every stroke counts and it raises the concentration level and preparation level needed to be on your game.”
Jason and his father will be splitting the duties of tour director, which include organizing each leg of the tour through their respective courses. They will also be working with rules officials and course monitors and considering possible changes to the tour.
One of the changes the VanDeusens are considering is expanding the range of ages that can participate in the tour.
“We would like to add younger age groups to the tour,” Jason VanDeusen said. “Bring ages 5 and up into the mix would benefit their development as players.”
The younger players would be split into flights and age groups like the current ages participating in the tour.
“That’s the great thing about the tour,” Phillips said. “Every player is split up by flights so they are playing with others at their skill level. They may get discouraged if they are playing with golfers above their talent, but playing with other kids at your level is great for gaining confidence and friendships.”
Phillips said he had been looking for someone to take over his duties for the last two years, but only became comfortable with the move when the VanDeusens came into the picture.
“They will do a great job,” Phillips said. “I would only step aside if I knew the Tour was going to be in good hands.”
Jason VanDeusen said the goals of the tour will remain the same.
“We want to provide a really good tournament atmosphere,” Jason VanDeusen said.
The 2012 edition of the tour begins June 7 at Riviera Country Club in Lesage, W.Va., and continues June 14 at the Ironton Country Club. On June 22, the tour goes to Sugarwood Golf Club in Lavalette, W.Va., and on June 25 the tour gets local at the Elks. Shawnee State Park Golf Course hosts the tour July 5 before it travels to Bellefonte Country Club in Ashland on July 9. The tour then visits Twin Solos in Lavalette on July 17 and wraps up at Guyan Golf and Country Club on July 27.
Entry forms are available at local courses. For more information, call Jason VanDeusen at 740-285-5004.
Bob Strickley may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.