Juniors get in swing of things
June 11, 2010
The Park City Golf Club has been hosting summer camps for junior golfers since a couple years before Cynthia Brown arrived, almost 18 years ago. In that time, Brown said, the golfers have changed as much as the camp itself.
"The big thing I’ve noticed over the years is that parents used to drop them off kind of like babysitters," said Brown, an LPGA pro at the course. "Now, every kid here wants to be here. They ask questions. They want to know how to get better. You’ll be teaching somebody else and they’ll still call you down and say ‘Hey, look at this – is this right?’"
Brown credits the emergence of golf as a more transcendent sport in popular culture. Its once stuffy, conservative image has given way to the exciting athleticism and enthusiasm of younger players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Michelle Wie.
"There’s a lot more interest now," Brown said. "They’re watching it on TV, identifying with certain players, and they want to play."
Now the kids hang on every word from Brown and fellow pros Vaughn Robinson, Ken Stenmark and Shawn Andreason. Some get frustrated in their first few attempts to hit the ball, but the roaming pros soon correct their issues.
"The funniest things start to happen on Thursday when they start playing," Brown said. The players start their backswings slowly in unison and clubs come crashing down on the driving range mats, with a patter of thuds and scant few balls hopping on the concrete. Some of the more experienced golfers hit their shots a short distance into the grass and draw applause. Brown said one of the most fulfilling moments is watching the sheer joy in the eyes of the beginners when they first make solid contact.
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"They’re just tickled to death," she said. "They laugh. Some of them get a little teary-eyed that they finally got it."
Brown said the children are usually eager to show off their new wares to their parents when they come to pick them up from the camp, which teaches the full swing, putting, chipping, rules and etiquette.
"With kids, there’s no fear," Brown said. "They want to try it and they’re listening. I think that it’s, a lot of times, easier to teach a child. Their right brain is so active, they’re not so detail-oriented yet."
The course hosts three camps during the month of June, with two more remaining on the schedule. The instruction is for children ages 7-12, and last week’s opener drew 54 participants. Instruction is tailored to each child, not the whole class.
"We teach the kids as individuals, because there is a broad range of skills here," Brown said. "Some have never picked up a club, others have been in camp for a couple of years."
There is still availability for the second session from June 14 to 17, and more spots for session No. 3 from June 21 to 25. Cost is $165 for ages 7-12. There is no limit on the amount of camps one child can attend, and Brown said some will take all three.
Children play a few holes on the final day of the camp, and afterward are treated to a barbecue. Brown said the course’s open play schedule sacrifices almost three weeks to support the camp.
"They shut down the range on Wednesday and Thursday and shut down the back nine of the golf course," she said. "Kudos to them. They’re allowing the kids to go out there and play. They’re really going above and beyond for three straight weeks."
Once the young athletes feel comfortable with the rules of the game and confident in their swings, they are allowed to join a Monday junior league in which they walk a round and carry their clubs.
"We feel confident that the camp program gets them in a position where they know how to play and keep up," Brown said. "They’re getting the game, the rules, the etiquette, and also socializing and meeting people to go out and play with."