Dereniuk out to grow golf in Camrose
New head golf pro Dean Dereniuk is eagerly awaiting the opening of the Camrose Golf Course in Camrose. Josh Aldrich/Camrose Canadian
When Dean Dereniuk thinks golf he thinks family.
It is a unique sport where people of all ages, skill levels and demographics can be out on the course and playing at the same time, making it perfect for parents to take their kids out for nine or 18 holes. For the new head golf professional at Camrose Golf Course, this experience was a major part of his upbringing in the sport and something he looks forward to carrying on with his wife and two young daughters – aged one and three – in the future.
"My three-year-old is actually pretty good," said Dereniuk, 40. "She'll putt and she really likes hitting the driver, she gets right into it."
While three may be a little young for most, he has been tasked by the City of Camrose to reinvigorate the golfing base by attracting more junior players and families to the course. One way they are doing this is by a promotion in which the first 100 junior aged players who register will get their membership for $100. It is in an effort to remove a major barrier for young players and families.
"We have lots of people who say 'we have three or four kids and we can’t really afford to bring them out,'" he said. "But at $100 they can afford that."
The junior membership will also have tie-ins into the McLennan Ross tournament stop on July 19 and other clinics and programs.
It is now a much different golfing world than when he got into the sport in the early 90s. At that point there was no McLennan Ross tour or similar circuit for young players to compete on, instead it was much more of an unofficial track with players seeking out individual junior tournaments at different courses throughout the region.
Dereniuk grew up in Bawlf and golfing on the nine-hole course in Daysland and other local courses. It was there that he fell in love with chasing a little white ball.
"I was pretty good at sports but I found golf really quite challenging, I couldn't understand it at first so I wanted to learn it, and the more I learned it the better I got," he said.
Eventually his dad joined him on the course as did the rest of his family.
Dereniuk is a self-taught golfer. He did not take a single lesson until after his junior golf days and then two more lessons as he was preparing himself for a career as a golf pro. Instead he recorded tournaments on VHS and spent hours pouring over the film, in particular studying Fred Couples, who was in his prime.
After trying his hand in the trades, his love of golf won out and he went to Grant MacEwan College for their Professional Golf Program while playing on their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference team for three years. He has since gone on to be a golf professional at Ravencrest in Edmonton and most recently at Meadowlands Golf Club in Sylvan Lake.
Dereniuk was looking for a new challenge and to move up the ladder when the job in Camrose came open with the retirement of former golf professional Bill Penny. He could not turn down the opportunity for a bit of a homecoming.
"I have a lot of family and friends from the area, coming and going," he said. "I love the golf course, I love the community. I haven't really been here in about 24 years, so I've already hooked up with some relatives I haven't seen in a while and some friends that I don't have a chance to see a lot."
Dereniuk has played the course a number of times over the years and likes how it sets up for all skill levels, calling it a welcoming course that is easy to score. Part of that is due to it being a shorter course compared to some of the behemoths that have sprouted up in the past couple of decades and the top condition the course is kept in.
There have been a lot of challenges in recent years in the golf industry. With more options available for entertainment dollars, people have been finding different places to put their hard-earned money, especially when in many cases the cost of golfing has sky-rocketed. Dereniuk, however, insists that it is possible to grow the sport and run a successful course. He says memberships had a steady growth at his previous stops and as a result so did their programs. It is no secret where that success lays.
"This will be a learning year for me, learning what works and what doesn't work, but you've got to start with your juniors," he said. "They're going to be golfers in 10 years and your members here. If you don't have them here maybe you're not as successful."
That path to success has been stunted by winter's extended stay this year, however. If the warmer temperatures do hang around Dereniuk is hoping the course will be open this weekend with all holes and greens in play.
"We're definitely a month behind," he said. "Our superintendent Darren (McDermott) said this is the most snow he's seen in 11 years. He says there's a lot of moisture in it and it's going to take a lot of time to come out."