MARQUETTE - She started golfing just seven years ago. Now, Angela Mason-Epper finds herself as president of the Marquette County Junior Golf Association.
"I love it. It's so rewarding," the Ishpeming resident said. "Golf is an activity we all can play for many years. To spark an interest at a young age is a great opportunity for kids."
Mason-Epper, 39, got on the links when her sons Connor (now 14) and Camron (12) became interested in the sport.
Marquette County Junior Golf Association President Angela Mason-Epper stands with members of the MCJGA program on a tee box at the Northern?Michigan University Golf Course in Chocolay Township during an outing on July 13. The MCJGA has 180-190 kids participating this season. They golf twice a week for six weeks leading to the program’s finals on Aug. 2 at Gentz’s Golf Course in Harvey. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"They just heard about it and decided to try it out. They never looked back," she said.
Mason-Epper has been a member of the MCJGA board for five years, the last three as its president.
"I used to come out and help the program. Then, I was asked to be on the board," she said. "It was such a great organization for kids. I just wanted to be a part of it."
The MCJGA has 180-190 kids participating this season. They golf twice a week for six weeks leading to the program's finals on Aug. 2 at Gentz's Golf Course in Harvey.
Besides Gentz's, golfers also compete at the Marquette Golf Club, Wawonowin Country Club in Ishpeming, the Northern Michigan University course in Chocolay Township and Red Fox Run in Gwinn.
"It changes every week and depends on course and staff availability (when play is scheduled)," Mason-Epper said.
Boys and girls 8-18 years of age are grouped according to age and-or ability. They play five holes (150 yards each) all the way up to the advanced boys' division for nine holes.
For the younger divisions, adult walkers are used to keep score for each foursome.
An instructional designer for the CBORD company out of New York who has begun taking golf lessons, Mason-Epper works about 10 hours a week for the MCJGA during the summer.
"I oversee the coordination of the entire program," she said. "I gather volunteers, organize board meetings, make sure the golf courses are in place and do the scheduling. I also pitch in with the weekly play.
"Before the season, I'm involved with registration and coordinating the start of the season. I also have to secure medals and trophies."
Mason-Epper said the board is comprised of 10 people. There are numerous volunteers and three NMU golfers - Jared Reid, Adam Huss and Brent Regis - who are helping out this summer.
"It's a team effort. It's not a one-person show," she said, mentioning long-time board member Larry Heiskanen as being particularly active in securing program sponsors to help keep costs down.
Mason-Epper said securing volunteers is perhaps the toughest part of her job as MCJGA president.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult at times," she said. "We have a fantastic board that dedicates a lot of time to this program, but we're always looking for volunteers.
"It's a big struggle, the toughest part. Sometimes, we're asking people to give up their vacation time to come out and make this program work."
She, herself, has done that to keep the program moving along.
"We have to fill in the missing pieces. You do what you have to do," the 1991 Westwood High School graduate said.
Mason-Epper said the best part of her job is "seeing the progress of our young golfers in learning the sport and getting interested in it.
"Also, seeing the community support we get. The community is so supportive of youth activities. It's great to see people involved," she said.
At one time, Mason-Epper said, the MCJGA had 230 golfers. She wouldn't mind seeing the current program expand to that level or beyond.
"We'd have to have a third day (of competition each week) and a new set of volunteers to do that," she said. "But I'd like to maintain our program and see it grow."
Mason-Epper also has some other program improvements on her agenda.
"I'd like to see our finals competition run more efficiently, see a boost in volunteers and recruit board members with young kids who will participate for years," she said.
The Casper, Wyo., native added for the near future, she'll continue to serve in her MCJGA position.
"I'll know when it's time to move on," she said.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.