(KMOX) – This past Sunday was one of those days when you had to think God is a golfer. We’re told “on the seventh day He rested.” That doesn’t preclude the chance he grabbed his bag and headed out onto a celestial links.
This Sunday, I headed out to St. Louis Country Club because of a mid-week invitation to visit a Junior Golf Day at the club, staged in conjunction with the upcoming Curtis Cup Matches (June 6-8). It made sense that Dr. Jack Eisenbeis had hatched an idea to bring juniors together for a little learning and a lot of recreation at a course that in a fortnight would be featuring this country’s eight finest women amateurs against their counterparts from Great Britain and Ireland.
In my mind, women amateurs and junior golfers occupy the same social terrain in the game.
The three-hour session featured a Drive, Pitch and Putt competition, a clinic by nationally acclaimed Dennis Walters, fun treats and prizes and Curtis Cup Captain Ellen Port. Our new USGA President, Tom O’Toole, dropped by the neighborhood to talk about his organization’s desire to attract more youngsters to the game. Port was her always energetic, smiling positive presence who worked the young assembly with all the expertise of a golfing great who has spent her life around kids in her life in education.
I was curious to know where the kids for this day came from because the event came as a surprise to me on short notice and seemed more private than public in that regard. The answer I was told was the kids signed up through their West County CYC.
If the Supreme Being does in fact play the game, no doubt he views with the same joy I do seeing kids taking it on. As I walked up to make shift range, I saw kids of all sizes, and ages, some with swings you see on television promos for the game that make you wish you could start over, and others who made you understand why it is called a club as they attacked the ball with the intent to make it move, no matter the technique.
It also made me stop and think about CYC golf – this area’s interloper in the myriad of programs aimed at junior golfers. There is of course the Junior Golf Program annually offered by the Gateway section of the PGA. More recently its the Gateway Foundation and its efforts to reach out to the inner city to make golf a stepping stone to a better world.
There is the First Tee program with its national backing and the resources to make the game affordable and available to kids with an interest in the game. I learned about the new PGA Junior Golf League from Tim Davenport of Eagle Springs, a program that allows courses to compete with other courses involving players 13 and under in a scramble competition that even allows for substitutions during the round.
But because of my coaching role with high school kids as alums, I have a sentiment for the CYC approach. Davenport says the CYC involvement in North County goes back almost two decades and believes it may have the been the first of the now regional programs in the area.
I quizzed a number of my players who came through their parish golf programs and learned that while the target minimum is fifth grade, prodigies are welcome, and one of my seniors had joined CYC golf when he was in third grade, (I didn’t want to shatter his pride and point out that the PGA Tour’s J.B. Holmes played on his “high school” team in Kentucky when he was in third grade.)
I spoke briefly with Carol Fromuth, one this area’s greatest mentors when it comes to junior golf. Fro is now running the Accelerated Golf Tour, a series for golfing talents, hut she endorsed the CYC approach if they could just get past that wink and nod regard for the rules of the game.
In years past I have spent some time in this space talking about juniors and the game, but I have given little notice to the CYC programs. Perhaps it is because I am still traumatized by the fact my Crusader League baseball coach’s son talked me into an embarrassing error at Jamieson Park, and I secretly hold the CYC responsible. Regardless, when you talk about the game, the inclusiveness of the CYC in golf effectively emulates what it has done in the traditional team sports such as baseball and basketball and the mother lode of talent for this area – soccer.
In visiting with Davenport, I prodded him to draw comparisons among the various programs I have earlier mentioned, and, in truth, he pointed to the unique strengths that each offers the aspiring golfer. I then offered him my own perspective on what perhaps sets the CYC apart.
I said so many of the programs offered organizationally give kids ‘in’ the game a chance to improve and compete. The CYC, I said, seems to want to give kids a chance to discover the game and then decide whether it suits their palate.
I assume those kids enjoyed their three hours at StLCC. I hope they remember to nag their parents back t the course to see the competition in early June. I applaud the club for doing something they didn’t have to do. And I am pleased the CYC was the farm they harvested for a perfect Sunday afternoon.
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