PERHAPS the best thing that ever happened to junior golf on the Sunshine Coast was when Graeme Miller was sacked 15 years ago as Headland Golf Club's junior coordinator.
His dismissal was the catalyst for the formation of the Coast's Invincibles Tour - a remarkable program that has seen hundreds of youngsters realise their dreams, and which has become a model for the development of junior golf.
Graeme, a former Victorian who had retired early from his job as a photo finisher for Melbourne advertising agencies, moved to the Sunshine Coast in 1997.
One of his first volunteer roles was at the region's courts, working with young offenders, ensuring they got a fair deal and had somebody in their corner.
"One day my wife said 'wouldn't it make more sense if you could get hold of these young people before they got into trouble'," Graeme said.
A work-related back injury had brought an end to his golfing days, but he nonetheless joined Headland as a social member and, before long, was working with a small number of juniors.
"I'd spent 30 years in martial arts," he said. "It teaches you discipline and respect, and I loved that."
He also loved golf, and in mentoring young people.
He started with a squad of five.
"We'd get together two afternoons a week, chipping and putting, learning the rules of golf and playing a few holes when the course was clear.
"We had great fun, hitting balls, exchanging a bit of banter, learning the etiquette of the game."
These days the Invincibles Tour is heavily involved in the structure of competitive junior golf on the Sunshine Coast - working with Golf Queensland, the Greg Norman Junior Foundation, and the clubs, to provide a coordinated schedule of junior tournaments.
Looking back on the Invincibles Tour's 15 years, Graeme says he's amazed at how far the program has come. "It's not so much that we're doing different things," he said. "It's that we're doing it so much better."
Already 27 of his Tour graduates have found work in the golf industry - many of them as assistant professionals in pro shops around the state.
"I'm thrilled with the Invincibles Tour and where it's going," he said.
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