(Girls in the Game golfers at Lake Bluff Golf Club)
Last Thursday I had the great pleasure of hosting 26 young, aspiring golfers from Girls in the Game of Chicago at my home golf course - Lake Bluff Golf Club. The day was a part of the spring break programming Girls in the Game (GIG) had set up for their girls to enjoy spring break in productive ways and in safe environments. I was assisted by three wonderful ladies from the LPGA's Girls Golf Program, Valerie Flora, Kate Tempesta and Marlene Davis, who came in from New York together and worked with the GIG girls the two days before our clinic at Lake Bluff GC and had the girls very prepared and excited to come to an actual golf course. It was a beautiful, sunny and perfect weather day which was very much in doubt on Monday last week when we suffered another round of snow - but luckily the 2 inches or so that fell up north melted away before our Thursday golf clinic with the girls making it a picture-perfect day for all of us involved.
So Thursday arrived and I headed out to the course and waited for my fellow teachers and the bus to arrive with our eager class of golfers. The bus pulled up and out popped 26 very excited and curious young ladies, most of whom had never set foot on a golf course until last week. Wide-eyed and chatting away, our LPGA teachers and some chaperons finally rounded up the girls and we led them into the clubhouse for a pre-clinic meeting and introductions. Let's just say that the decibel level rose about 10 notches when we went inside but I called it a joyful noise because the girls just couldn't wait to get out and start swinging actual golf clubs on a real golf course. In their previous two days with the LPGA teachers, they had been indoors working with SNAG golf equipment (junior learning equipment featuring oversize clubs and velcro'ed tennis balls etc.), and learning the basics. It's a great way to learn the ABC's of golf, but there is nothing like hitting real golf balls, using real golf clubs and being on a driving range, practice green and then the golf course.
We split the girls up into 4 groups and headed out to our respective areas between the driving range, practice bunker area, and practice putting green. Two of us worked the driving range because when you teach golf to juniors using real clubs, this is the area of training where most accidents happen since the kids get so eager to hit balls, they aren't paying attention to see if someone is behind them and bad things can happen in an instant. I am very happy to report that we didn't have one injury or mishap during our two hours together as this wonderful group of girls paid attention to all the instructions we gave them and were extremely well-behaved and respectful to the teaching staff.
Over the course of two hours, our girls learned how to putt, chip, hit out of the sand, and hit irons and some woods on the range. They were quite talented and many of them showed real skills for the game. It was a most rewarding way to spend a day - the LPGA pros were fantastic so thanks to Val, Kate and Marlene for making my job easier. Thanks to my boss, Head Pro/GM Ed Heiser, for letting me bring this clinic to our course as it was a perfect layout for getting the girls into the game on our great practice facility and for letting us spend some time on the golf course, thus allowing us to tie in what the girls had been learning for 3 days and seeing how it plays out on an actual golf hole.
The girls, well, what can I say about the girls - they were funny, inquisitive, obedient, polite, respectful and they were one of my all-time favorite groups of junior golfers that I've ever worked with in my very long pro golf career. Kudos to Amy Skeen (Executive Director of Girls in the Game), her staff and the LPGA pros for making this day happen. From the comments I heard from the girls they had a very fun day, several told me they were going to hurry home to tell their parents and siblings that "I am a golfer!" It was a most rewarding day and another reason that reminded me why I love golf so much as it is a game that brings people together, all ages, all backgrounds, all shapes, all sizes and on this particular day in mid-April, the game of golf brought together some great LPGA pros, one humble local golf pro/golf writer (yes, me!) and 26 beautiful, talented and adorable young girls from Chicago all who, in all likelihood, would never have crossed paths in life except for this great game and the even more exceptional organization - Girls in the Game.
Coming up in June, you are invited to join Girls in the Game at their 15th annual Chip in for Girls golf outing, Entitled to Play, on Monday, June 23 at the Traditions at Chevy Chase Golf Club in Wheeling, Illinois. It is a great day of golf, networking, lots of great raffle prizes, silent auction items, and you will be supporting this special organization which provides year-round sports & fitness opportunities, nutrition & health education, and leadership development to enhance the overall health and well-being of all girls. Since 1995 when the organization was founded, Girls in the Game has empowered literally thousands of girls to make healthier choices and develop the confidence and leadership skills they need to succeed on and off the field. I've been involved with and supported GIG pretty much since its first season and have seen first-hand the wonderful impact they have had on literally thousands of young girls from Chicago - many of whom would have not had the opportunities that Girls in the Game provides for them. I support them in any way I can, and I'm hoping you all will too!
Come out and play one of the most beautiful and best-maintained golf courses on Chicago's north shore Lake Bluff Golf Club - details at: www.lakebluffgolfclub.com
Read all about Girls in the Game at: www.girlsinthegame.org
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