Jack Yanakakis is becoming a very good golfer on the tees, fairways, and greens of the Gannon Municipal Golf Course.
The 12-year-old seventh grader at Pickering Middle School competes on the New England Junior Golf Tour and hopes to play golf in high school and college in the future.
Yanakakis is in good company as a junior member at Gannon. Current club professionals Tony Sessa of Augusta National in Georgia and Chris Carter of Hillview in North Reading and many others also began their golfing careers in the junior golf program at Gannon.
Each Monday morning for the past six weeks Yanakakis has joined approximately 150 other youths at the instructional clinic under the supervision of club pro Mike Foster and a team of volunteer instructors. An awards presentation ceremony and cookout climaxed the final session of the clinic Monday.
“I’ve been playing golf at Gannon since I was about three years old,” said Yanakakis. “The clinic has really helped me a lot. Mr. Foster is a great guy and without him, I probably wouldn’t be here playing and enjoying golf so much. It’s great being here with all the other kids at the clinic.”
Yanakakis said he also takes private golfing lessons at Hillview from Carter, a Foster protégé.
The Gannon junior golf clinic is in its 44th year of existence. It is among the most well-attended and highly regarded clinics in New England. The cost for young golfers is free.
“Everything is free,” says Foster proudly. “We do the instructional clinics and then a nine-hole scramble at 10 a.m. We give trophies to the players in the kids’ division along with this year’s junior club champions, Ricky McDonald, Chris Cole, and Meaghan Mahan.”
Foster singled out 14-time ladies club champion Tara Johnson Friedman for being the backbone for the junior golf clinic for several years. Friedman, who retired from her position at Gannon this year, made a special guest appearance at the season-ending awards ceremony Monday.
“I leaned on Tara for the clinic for all these years and this year was the first year she couldn’t do it,” said Foster. “But she’s here today and I’m really happy she made the effort to be here because without Tara this clinic wouldn’t be what it is.”