For some time, people involved in golf (i.e., golf pros, administrators and others) have wondered how to increase girls’ participation in the sport. Boys have always outnumbered girls by wide margins.

Brian Bickford, the head pro at Val Halla in Cumberland, asked his daughter, Meghan, “How do we get more girls into golf”? She told her father “Have girls learn from other girls.”

So Meghan’s Camp at Val Halla was born and recently completed its second successful summer of 12 sessions. The first year, there were 28 girls involved. This year, the number grew to 67.

Meghan Bickford’s idea of girls teaching girls came from her time playing basketball for Greely, when each Saturday morning during clinics, varsity players would help instruct middle school and grade school players. They would serve as mentors to the younger girls, who were thrilled to have the high school players involved.

“I used to play basketball and help little girls,” said Bickford.

“I had to do that with my primary sport. When I was younger, I used to play with guys. It’s been amazing how we’ve grown in just two years. We doubled the number of sessions and almost tripled in size.”

Joining Bickford as instructors were Shannon Mitchell, Maura Quigley, Laura Grant, Megan Hudson, Katie Whittum, Edith Aromando and Sarah Hansen. Mitchell and Grant are former Maine junior champions, and the others all played for or are still playing for high school teams at Greely, Portland and Westbrook.

Of course, that’s on the boys’ teams. There are no high school girls’ teams in Maine.

Bickford, 18, will be a freshman at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C., where she will major in the golf management program with the goal of becoming a club professional, like her dad. She wants to continue in her role of teaching junior golfers.

Bickford said girls have a different view of golf at the start.

“Girls look at golf as being more social,” said Bickford. “Guys just want to hit the ball far. When girls are learning golf with boys, they’re more nervous and self-conscious. They opened up this summer.

“We combined a golf fundamental with a life skill each time. We made it more fun. We met Mondays and Thursdays. We had munchie Mondays, popcorn Mondays and ice cream Mondays. Every Thursday, we had a theme. One of them was Pink Thursday, where everyone wore pink.

“The girls were ready and focused to play golf when they arrived.”

While the girls were learning a little bit more about golf each week, the instructors were also evolving.

“At first, we taught as we had been taught,” she said. “We made adjustments teaching from each session, with the goal of trying to make it better. Some of the girls showed a lot of potential and commitment, and I can see them playing golf in the future.”

Students were charged $35 for one session a week and $55 for two sessions.

Meghan’s Camp is accredited with the LPGA, USGA and The First Tee. The season ended with a skills competition. There was a long-drive contest, a closest-to-the-pin competition from 100 yards, a three-hole putting contest, a tricky putting competition and a life skills quiz. Women from both the Southern Maine Women’s Golf Association and Women’s Maine State Golf Association helped with instruction during one session. There was a mother-daughter tournament and the group made a trip to Portland to play the three-hole First Tee course off Riverside Street with players from Riverside’s First Tee program.

“Golf in the past has been a male dominated sport,” said Bickford. “Golf is a lifelong sport that should be for men and women. There’s a lot of opportunity for girls in golf.”

TEE TO GREEN: The Invitational, a tournament to benefit the First Tee of Maine, will be held Monday at The Woodlands. The tournament is in its second year, but it’s the first year the Maine State Golf Association has had a First Tee license.

Former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman is the tournament’s honorary host. Beman will speak at the banquet. There will also be a live auction. Beman’s book, “Golf’s Driving Force: The Inside Story of the Man Who Transformed Professional Golf Into a Billion-Dollar Business”, has just been released.

At the women’s state amateur at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, Karli Soracco, a junior golfer, chipped in for birdie from above the seventh hole. Soracco, of Turner, didn’t like her shot at first, thinking she hadn’t hit it far enough. Her reaction changed as the ball began trickling toward the hole and finally dropped in. Soracco finished fourth in the event.

Kristin Kannegieser of Minot, the champion in 2010, finished 14 shots behind winner Emily Bouchard, but ended her three rounds with a flourish, making a birdie on the uphill, par-4 18th. Kannegieser hit her second shot to about 10 feet below the cup, a key at Penobscot Valley, and sank the putt.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

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Twitter: TomChardPPH