Tuesday, February 19, 2008

So Your Child Wants to PLAY GOLF, What Next? PART I

I get this question quite a bit and I must admit I am surprised myself that I had not written about this subject before now. Most of my blogging has been to help those who already play golf, because my son does and some of his friends and I do too, despite the ever increasing rise in my scores. I don't think I realized how many people who have limited knowlege of the game would like reading this blog but they do and so I get that question, "What Next?" As I have been updating my blog this question "What Next?" hit me like a ton of bricks because what good is it for me to post about the various tournaments and golfing news primarily for the novice junior golfers, particularly African Americans if they have no idea of what to do next after having realized they want take up the game. So I am attempting to give a very generalized "What To Do Next" discussion/explanation from my personal experiences and observations as well as what I have seen as my son's experiences since we took up the game nearly 5 years ago.

  1. First and above all, I am assumming a child or his parent has a DESIRE or expressed some interest into learning about the game and how to play it. If they don't, then the rest is the waste of your time and hard-earned money. DESIRE is absolutely necessary for a junior golfer to have any success at this game because it is a very simple and yet very difficult game all at the same time. But truthfully, isn't that with ANYTHING you want to do in life. Sometimes its hard, sometimes its difficult but it is that DESIRE that keeps you coming back. So DESIRE is crucial to success at golf as it is in life.
  2. Secondly, I would say are 2 equally important issues for your junior golfer:

(1) Enroll them in a junior golf program, such as Mid-South Junior Golf Assocation / First Tee of Memphis. While this program will NOT TEACH your junior the game of golf the way they need to be taught to play high level tournament play, it WILL PROVIDE your junior, particuarily African American junior golfers and other minorities who have traditionally been denied access to the game, the ability to learn more about the game in a "welcoming environment." The reality is that the majority of us who play golf are only doing so for recreational purposes and so a program like the MSJGA/First Tee is perfect for learning the game you can play for a lifetime. The founder, Mr. Charles Hudson says, "The kid is so much more important than the golf swing." So at MSJGA you learn not only the fundamentals of the game but you are mentored on the skills you neeed to be successful in life. I love this program and were it not for it, my son would not be enjoying all he has from the game. They introduced us to the game and helped us learn to love it and so much more. We've made friends for a lifetime in this program. For more information about the remarkable Mid-South Junior Golf Association and its origins, see this link: http://www.thefirstteememphis.org/club/scripts/section/section.asp?NS=GAU. Also, check with the local golf courses, private and public, to see when they have junior clinics. Most of the private courses hold them and many times they are open to juniors who do not have memberships, especially during Spring Break and during the summer months.

(2)The second equally important issue is getting one-on-one instructors from a qualified PGA professional. These professionals are normally employed at every private, semi-private or city-run courses and they offer lessons whether you are a member or not of their clubs. As with any type of sport, you need a good instructor to find out your true potential and so I would recommend that you get your child signed-up with a professional for more indepth instruction and evaluations on the fundamentals of the game. Here is a guide to selecting a teacher from the Golf Digest Online: http://www.golfdigest.com/instruction/2007/08/rotella_0807. The instructors at the First Tee are wonderful, wonderful mentors who donate their time and advice to our youngsters but they are not professional golf teachers and sometimes through well-meaning attempts, they teach habits that are hard to break. This happened to my son so I am writing from experience. So I feel it is very important that you get them lessons. It will build their confidence learning the proper techniques of the game and they will play better. Expect to pay anywhere from $40 -$125 and hour for private lessons but you don't have to get them every week. If you are a member of the First Tee, they have an arrangement where you can get lessons at reduced fees once you child has reached Birdie Level in the program, though I didn't have much success with that program a few years back. At that time, the then Executive Director made it difficult to nearly imposssible for me to get my son signed-up. I finally gave up and just started to pay for lessons when we had the extra cash. I understand from the present staff they are trying to get the program up and running again.

Golf isn't cheap and it takes a lot time but that shouldn't be a reason to keep your junior from learning the game. There are ways to learn this game IF you have the DESIRE and are PERSISTENT and are willing to make the SACRIFICES.

So don't be discouraged at the cost or at the fear of starting a new game that many of us have been excluded from. It is a great game and there are far more great people in the game of golf than the few bad apples that will try to discourage you. So sign them up today. A whole new world will open up to you. I promise you that!

Check back for Part II of "What Next?" in the coming days.