Young golfers are magic for golf. Their spirits are inspiring and their enjoyment is contagious.
More than 60 boys and girls, ages 8 to 12, learned golf skills during a recent three-week clinic at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Godfrey.
Zack Deeder, the best one-handed golfer I have ever known, was the junior golfers’ instructor and he was up to the task. Promptly each morning at 8 a.m. four mornings a week for three weeks, Zack prepared the practice area before he called out; “Junior golfers come on up for today’s event.” A dozen boys and girls, dressed nattily, and with an assortment of bags and clubs, ambled to the excellent practice area at Rolling Hills, parked their bags and prepared for their lesson.
When Deeder began, the golfers listened and participated. His banter and instructions were seriously funny to his aides, like Shane Smith, a professional golfer; Joe Swartz, a former high school golfer heading to college; and Ryan Colughlin, also an excellent golfer and in training as a club pro, and me; I’m John Casey and a golfer for 48 years. The Zack Pack staff of volunteers, and especially Joan Stupprich, the coordinator for Junior Golf at Rolling Hills for 22 straight years, enjoyed working with everyone during the clinic.
Zack was entertaining as he commanded the attention of his class of young aspiring golfers. In a rat-a-tat-tat style of words and phrases, Zack asked the girls and boys to do an assortment of drills. He had them clutch their golf clubs by the head, not the grip, of the dub, and swing them in a pendulum motion. He illustrated the method by doing it himself. He wanted them to make their club go “whoosh”! They did, too, and their eyes lit up when their club made a whoosh. “Louder,” he called out. They did it louder.
The lesson continued with another skill-developing technique and method. They hit short irons, mid irons and long clubs, drivers, and 3- and 5-metals. They putted, chipped, pitched, drove and had contests of skills. Success meant a new Rolling Hills logo ball or a Gatorade. Balls zipped, skittered, flew, bounced and rolled all over the practice area. One young lad swung mightily at the ball with his driver and the club head came off and landed several yards away on the target line. He looked dismayed, but I said he could use the shaft for a guide to line up his next shot and he did just that. That’s adaptation.
As the drills continued, the instructors watched and helped each young player improve their swings and strike balls. Learning was instant for many. I was envious of how easily they adapted and applied new skills. We all marveled at some of their shots. When a lesson ended many of the golfers accepted an invitation to play the executive course at Rolling Hills.
After the first session, I was as eager to show up the next day to help young golfers learn something new from Zack. With each lesson the kids improved, and as they did they gained confidence and became competitive. But they also encouraged and congratulated one another as they trained. They were polite, mannerly and extremely attentive. I’m expecting some of them will become excellent golfers. Some will play on golf teams, and may even earn a scholarship with the skills they develop. Whether or not they will achieve greatness will not diminish the refreshing goodness they bring to the game of golf.