Linking youth and police
By Nikki Hewitt
By Nikki Hewitt
A friendly battle for golf supremacy brews each spring on the neatly manicured greens of two British Columbia golf courses,
One hundred high school students from across the province converge on two courses in Delta and the neighbouring city of Surrey, eager to show off their drives, chips and putts for a chance to win great golf swag, a trophy, scholarship money and of course, bragging rights.
Minus the dry course, warm April sunshine and mountain views, this golf tournament could take place in any Canadian province. What makes it unique is the 22 Delta police officers playing along side the students; it is believed to be the only one of its kind in North America.
The tournament began in 2004 when then Delta Police School Liaison Officer Cst. Ian Pitcairn realized he was focusing most of his time on students who were in trouble and leaving out the ‘good’ kids, who he calls the ’95 per cent’.
“We need them on our side,” says Pitcairn. “These kids deserve our attention as much as anybody else. And as a (school) liaison (officer) that was something that I worked hard on… trying to keep 95 ‘per cent-ers’ on our side, because if we lose them, we’re in trouble as a society.”
Fast forward to 2014 and Pitcairn, a recruiting officer for the past seven years, is retiring and handing the reins of the Student Golf Tournament over to Cst. Mark McKinnell, an avid golfer who has grown to love the event as much as his predecessor did.
“It’s very competitive,” says McKinnell. “It’s a super fun day but everyone is there to play their best and win. It’s not like mini golf.”
While the competition is hot, there is plenty of time for students and officers to connect on the course. “You can see the bond,” says Pitcairn. “They’re nagging each other, laughing at each other when they miss. That’s great to see because their guard is down and they feel comfortable enough with that police officer to be able to say that to them.”
Pitcairn says the members get just as much out of the tournament as the students do.
“This wasn’t designed to try to keep kids out of trouble, that wasn’t what this was,” says Pitcairn. “This was a way for police officers and kids to get together in a non-threatening environment where they could learn something about each other – and they have.”
“When we’re playing, they have lots of questions. They want to know about the job and they see you (police) a lot differently towards the end,” says McKinnell. “I’ve known some of these kids for three to four years, starting in grade 9, and you see them grow.”
The success of the tournament – about a thousand students have participated over ten years – goes beyond the fun and camaraderie on the course. Past golfers include PGA tour pros Nick Taylor and Adam Svensson, a recent Jack Nicklaus award winner for the top collegiate golfer in the United States.
“I had golfed with fire fighters before, but never police officers,” Svensson recalls. “It was kind of cool, chatting with police on the course. I had never chatted with that many police before. It was cool to see their perspective on golf and life.”
Svensson, a graduate of Earl Marriott in South Surrey, says he had fun when he played (2009) and remembers how well dressed and behaved everyone was.
“It’s a great tournament for high school kids who want to get better,” says Svensson. “It gives them a chance to play against some pretty good golfers and get tournament experience at the same time.”
Nine of the past 10 tournament winners have gone on to full-ride scholarships south of the border.
The tournament is organized by the Delta Police Department, Delta Police Association and Delta School District teacher Bill Richards, and is hosted by two high end golf courses: Kings Links by the Sea and Northview Golf and Country Club. “I think that’s what makes the tournament, is the course,” says McKinnell.
It has taken volunteers, sponsors and a lot of time to make the tournament a success, something that’s bound to continue with Pitcairn’s retirement.
“I’m more than confident this tournament will continue on. You put your heart and soul into it because you know it’s providing something to a lot of different people, which is really cool.”
Nikki Hewitt is a coordinator with the Delta Police Corporate Planning and Communications department.