Spend enough time around golf and inevitably someone will advise a player that spending more practice time around the greens is a key to success.

Among the ongoing golf initiatives is finding ways to improve the general play of golfers, both young and old. The quickest way for beginners to do this, of course, is by improving on the greens.

This is at least part of why Black Butte Ranch designed its weekly Junior Putting Challenge, held every Thursday at Glaze Meadow.

“People don’t realize putting is where you can really improve your game,” says Bill Mitchell, a lifetime PGA of America member and teacher at Black Butte Ranch who runs the Junior Putting Challenge. “You can go over to the driving range and hit balls for a month. But if you would just spend your time figuring out a way to two-putt  every green, that’s the best way for a beginner to improve.”

What Black Butte Ranch did not realize is just how popular the Junior Putting Challenge would become in just a short time.

Beginning on Thursday, June 25, junior golfers have been invited to compete in a nine-hole putting tournament on the massive 18,000-square-foot practice putting green at Glaze Meadow.

At first, the event was slow to be embraced. Then in the last month, this happened:

Kids from around the Ranch have made Thursday afternoons at Glaze Meadow awfully interesting.

“It didn’t really go over too well at first, but the last month has been great,” Mitchell said. “One day we had six or eight junior golfers, and then we ended up with 24. They just kept coming.”

The event has been so popular that Black Butte Ranch will host two more this season on the next two Thursdays.

What has made the challenge a hit?

First and foremost, the contest is supposed to be fun. But Black Butte Ranch’s staff of golf professionals have an ulterior motive: improving the play of youngsters.

To do this, Mitchell goes over some fundamentals and processes of putting. But he keeps it simple, focusing on two of the most important aspects of shaving strokes.

“I’m big on the two Ds of putting: distance and direction,” Mitchell says. “If that’s the only thing they go away with, that’s fine with me.”

That comes with a particular emphasis on distance. Proper distance tends to put a ball close to the hole, leading to an easier second putt. And two putts is typically the goal, obviously.

Par on every hole of the contest is 2, so it does not take long for junior golfers to realize that the first putt is crucial to a good score.

“It’s kind of cool to see them put that together,” Mitchell says.

For Jeff Fought, Black Butte Ranch’s director of golf, the site of a couple dozen kids competing on the Glaze Meadow putting green is a welcome one. It is after all exactly what he had in mind when he pushed for the expansive putting green as part of Glaze Meadow’s $3.75 million renovation that was completed in 2012.

The story goes that Fought visited famed Pinehurst No. 2, and saw children having a blast out on the mammoth practice putting green while their parents watched. He then decided that he wanted to see the same thing at Black Butte Ranch.

“The parents were watching on the white chairs and the kids were out putting,” Fought says. “Creating something similar to that was the whole idea of the setup of Glaze Meadow.”

The cost to enter the Junior Putting Challenge is $5 per child, and that includes a Black Butte Ranch logo golf ball and an ice cream sandwich after play. The winner is awarded an entire sleeve of logo golf balls.

To enter a child or for more information, call 541-595-1270 or stop by the golf shop.

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