By Jim Newell
On Tuesday mornings during the summer Paint Creek Country Club has a slightly different vibe, a youthful exuberance as the junior golfers take over the course, ripping tee shots and sinking putts.
Well, it may not always be fairways and greens, but it’s a lot of fun and the kids develop more than just their swing.
Steve Vickery, a registered PGA professional, is the programs instructor and head golf pro and has been working for the club for 31 years.
“We try to teach golf etiquette and good life skills, such as being polite to the other players,” Vickery said, adding he’s also excited that the program has several new junior golfers this summer.
He and his team – Junior Golf Assistant Jason Dudzinksi and Program Coordinator Marty Ballen – work on the fundamentals of golf with the kids, like putting, chipping, developing their full swing.
Vickery and his crew had to adjust the program because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but point out that the junior golf program gives kids the opportunity to get outdoors, develop their golf game and interact with other kids while social distancing.
The Junior Golf program usually runs from about late June through mid-August, but had to adjust this summer.
“We started late because of not knowing if we were going to be able to do a junior program,” Vickery said. “Like everything it’s been a fluid kind of situation.”
Last year, the program had 60 kids participate. This year, there are 40 junior golfers, a good amount given the current climate. “Some parents were skeptical,” he said.
Usually Paint Creek holds summer clinics to get the kids involved in golf and hone their skills. However, Vickery said they plan on only doing one or two clinics this summer and will limit the number of participants to about 10 kids.
“I really like seeing the kids excited to head out on the course. Not only do they learn the game, they acquire social skills and they play with different kids each week,” he said. “They make friends with other kids that they may not have had a chance to get to know if it weren’t for this program.”
The Junior Golf program was designed to teach kids the fundamentals of the game, and getting children involved in the sport is imperative to keeping the game alive.
The four-level program — beginner, intermediate, 9-holer, and 9-holer advanced — includes kids ranging from 7-17 years old.
Not only does the strength of the program come from the passion of the kids, but also from the parental support and a dedicated professional golf staff at Paint Creek.
On any given Tuesday morning, the junior golfers will have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and caregivers showing up to support and get involved, which is essential to keeping the program going.
“We couldn’t do it without parents’ support,” Vickery said.
At season’s end, the kids are treated to a banquet with trophies and certificates, which Vickery said is still the plan “provided there are no further changes” in the pandemic guidelines.