By CRA News Service
PALM BEACH – Michelle Joseph bent her knees, hunched over and eyed the fairway before striking her golf ball. The 10-year-old lifted the club over her head and swung, sending the ball some 20 yards. She says her golf career is just getting started.
“I am liking this,” said Joseph, a member of the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network’s Summer Enrichment Academy program in Delray Beach. “Golfing is more fun than I though at first.”
She and eight of her peers received five, three-hour lessons in a week-long Hook a Kid on Golf camp at the Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course. An additional nine students from the West Palm Beach Boys and Girls Club also participated. They learned the fundamentals of golf, including swinging, putting, chipping and strategy.
The free camp is the brainchild of legendary golfer Raymond Floyd, who redesigned the golf course and earmarked $25,000 annually from a charity event in his honor to sponsor the program, organizers said. It gives the area’s youth – between the ages of 8 and 18 – a shot at picking up a game they might not otherwise, they added.
“He wanted to give something back to the community so he came up with the junior program,” said Tony Chateauvert, manager of the golf course.
Joey Weiss, one of the volunteer instructors, said she had fun being out on the course watching the children learn and succeed.
“It’s just great to see the smiles on their faces,” she said.
Each child who completed the five-day course received a starter set of golf clubs, golf shirt, golf balls and other supplies. Participants were eligible based on grades and conduct, said C. Ron Allen, KOPMN’s CEO.
Finding free, quality golf lessons that come with a complimentary set of clubs is very rare, he said, but having this program in Palm Beach makes the city an exception.
Allen said he was amazed at how much the kids’ self-confidence improved just after a few days.
“It’s so exciting to see how some of them didn’t know how to hold the club on Monday, and by Thursday they were driving the ball 150 yards straight down the middle,” he said. “Besides the instruction, they also tried to keep it fun for them, you know, with little contests and games and things.”
In addition to learning how to play, the kids were also taught golf etiquette and sportsmanship.
Considering the success over five days, Allen said he would like to continue exposing the students to the sport throughout the year.
“We’d really like to be able to offer this to more and more children, because it’s been such a good experience for the kids who’ve gone through it,” he said. “It just gives them such satisfaction to learn a sport they might never have gotten to play.”
Allen said golf, which used to be a “dork sport,” has grown in popularity, and once someone learns how to play he or she can do it for life. It also helps to develop life skills for young people, he said.
“Golf parallels life,” he said. “It’s the only game where you call yourself on. It teaches integrity, honesty and sportsmanship.”