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To contribute to the Ranken Jordan junior golf program or to ask any questions please e-mail me at This blog is not affiliated with Ranken Jordan. The views expressed on this blog are those of the author and not those of Ranken Jordan. Thank you for reading!

Friday, November 25, 2016

FUN in the Hospital!

Recently I logged into my e-mail account and found a new monthly newsletter for Titleist golf club fitters.  While reading through it I started thinking about some of the different factors we look at when fitting golfers for new clubs.  For instance, to maximize distance with the driver, golfers want to optimize their launch angle and spin rate.  This may sound like Greek to some of you, but boiled down it simply means to hit the ball on the best trajectory with the ideal amount of backspin to carry the golf ball the farthest distance in the air.  Hopefully whatever that maximum distance is finishes up in the fairway!  Golfers are always looking for ways to hit the ball farther and straighter and getting the optimum results on these two numbers can do both for a player.  However, as we saw a few weeks ago at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, optimizing launch angle can also lead to a lot of fun!

Anyone who was around for one of our recent clinics would have noticed it was not exactly a typical day of golf.  When the kids came to Warner's Corner they saw blank canvases lined up in front of a LOT of plastic which covering as much as possible.  The reason for all of this is that the annual Inspiration Gallery was just around the corner and the kids were creating artwork to be sold at a local gallery.  Naturally the therapists came up with a great idea and decided we needed to let the kids create artwork during golf!  As the golf balls were covered in paint the kids grabbed their golf clubs and started "painting."  Our normal golf clinics last about an hour but the kids were having so much fun with this one that we did not start cleaning up for well over two hours!  While spending time with each of our junior golfers that day I was thinking a lot about club fitting and changing the launch angle for each kid.

Usually when we look at changing the launch angle for the kids it is for the normal reason of improving the distance they hit the golf ball.  However on this particular day the reason was completely different.  Changing the launch angle meant the ball would hit a canvas in a different way and make a bigger splatter of paint!  If you think hitting a golf ball high and far will put a smile on the face of a child, wait until you see that smile after they hit a golf ball and paint goes everywhere!  During any of the club fitting seminars I have attended I never thought I would put what I learned to use by figuring out how to launch the golf ball to make the biggest splatter of paint possible.  However I am sure that each of the instructors of those seminars would be happy to know that the knowledge they shared was being put to use in this exciting way.

Those of you who have been regular readers of this blog (and that number is very small) will notice something with this post that is similar to almost all of the others.  What we do with the kids at Ranken Jordan revolves around them having fun.  Golf is just a way that we can do that.  I am fortunate that I am allowed to spend as much time as I do with the kids at Ranken Jordan sharing the great game of golf with them.  To see the smiles on their faces that are created by using a funny looking stick to hit a ball is an indescribable feeling.  My Mother's favorite song was "Thank God For Kids" by the Oak Ridge Boys.  Every week for over 5 1/2 years, as I walk out to my car after golf recalling the smiles, I think of the chorus from that song:

Thank God for kids, there's magic for a while
A special kind of sunshine in a smile.
Do you ever stop to think or wonder why
The nearest thing to Heaven is a child?

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Every day at golf facilities around the world people go to the driving range to hit golf balls.  They go for many different reasons, to get better, unwind after a day at work, exercise, or just spend time with friends and family.  While at the driving range, people get their bucket of golf balls, find a spot to hit, dump out their golf balls, tee one up, and start hitting.  All that seems pretty standard, right?  It should and it is.  However that is not always how things work at a driving range.

During a recent clinic at Ranken Jordan I watched two different junior golfers prove beyond a doubt that golf truly is for everyone.  The first junior golfer, who was hitting golf balls for the first time, began hitting from her wheelchair.  It did not take long before she asked her therapist if she could stand up to hit.  Since one of the things she was working on in therapy was her balance it was a perfect opportunity to get in even more therapy.  Typically someone will tee up each golf ball for our junior golfers but that was not the case in this situation.  While I was watching her therapist asked her to start teeing up the golf balls.  I learned they were also working on her fine motor skills so she had to pick up and tee up her next three golf balls with her left hand which was followed by three with her right hand.  She went back and forth like this for almost an hour.  How often when you are at the driving range are you focused on which hand you are using to pick up and tee up your golf balls and how wide your feet are for optimal balance?

The second junior golfer I mentioned has been one of our regulars for the last few weeks.  When Tommy started coming to golf he was very excited to learn how to play but was unable to open his hand without assistance in order to trip the club.  We worked with him to get his grip and as soon as he hit that first solid drive he was hooked!  Week after week Tommy has been coming for golf with a smile on his face.  At our most recent clinic I was the one with the huge smile on my face.  When Tommy got there, he reached out his hand, opened it, and said he was ready for golf!  I get excited when I see the kids improving in golf; I am speechless when I see progress like this!

In September I had the honor and pleasure of being part of a panel making a presentation at the 5th annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium hosted by the NCAA in Indianapolis, IN.  During that presentation on dis/Ability in Sports, a question was asked about how we can expand accessibility in sports to all people regardless of ability level.  While answering that question I commented that at times we have to be more proactive and take the game to people and places that have historically been overlooked.  Stories like these are prime examples of why that is.  As mentioned earlier in this post, golf is a game for everyone.  People everywhere, regardless of ability, can play the game and should have the opportunity to play.  Sometimes it just takes different thinking to match the different abilities to begin the process of creating smiles.

Honored to present at the 5th annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium with Nicole Roundy, Yvette Pegues, Dr. Ted Fay, & Steve Jubb

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


For the past several years there has been a major credit card company running an advertising campaign focused on "priceless" moments.  A lot of their commercials are pretty good and deliver a memorable message.  However I wish they had been able to witness the "priceless" conversation that took place recently at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  In my ridiculously biased opinion, that conversation was beyond "priceless" and certainly made for an unforgettable memory.  Moments like this tend to happen a bit more frequently when you are spending time with the kids inside a hospital like Ranken Jordan.  As the result of the incredible work performed by the entire staff, miracles happen at Ranken Jordan and I am fortunate to get to see those miracles in action when the kids come to our golf clinics.

The most recent example happened this past Wednesday when a new junior golfer showed up right on time for his 2:00 p.m. "tee time."  As his therapist was pushing him in his wheelchair, I noticed three things right away:  the huge smile on his face that lit up all of Warner's Corner, the gait belt around his waist, and the incision on his head from a very recent surgery.  Seeing his gait belt told me we would need to make slight adjustments to his stance to help with his balance while the smile told me we would definitely have fun!  Immediately after I had the privilege of being introduced to Antonio, he stood up out of this wheelchair and the "priceless" conversation happened:

Me:  Antonio, it is great to meet you.  Have you played golf before?

Antonio:  No, I haven't, but I love golf!

Me:  That's great to hear!  I'll get you the correct size of golf club and we will get started.

Antonio:  Good, I love golf!  Will you teach me how to play?

This is the point that people who know me best will find hard to believe.  I was essentially speechless (this is a rare occurrence).  Somehow I managed to get out "absolutely" as I was going to get his golf club.  When I handed Antonio his golf club he once again had that huge smile on his face.  He was ready to get going!  When he stood up to the golf ball I was amazed at how good his grip, stance, and posture were without any instruction from me.  One small adjustment to his grip and position of the clubface was all it took to get him going.  Then, as if the conversation we had did not do enough to have me speechless, he started hitting ball after ball into his small target net.  By the end of the 1 hour session, Antonio had hit approximately 150 golf balls and we took 73 of them out of the net!  The therapist who was holding Antonio's gait belt and I kept exchanging looks of disbelief.  We both were blown away and in awe of what we were witnessing!  Through it all Antonio kept smiling and laughing as he watched the net fill up with the golf balls he was hitting.

On this particular day everyone watching had a smile on their face almost as big as the smile Antonio was displaying.  Several people came over to watch and simply could not believe what they were seeing.  As the mother of a former Ranken Jordan patient once stated, moments like this are "magical."  There really is no better feeling than putting a smile on the face of a child.  The best part about that feeling is getting to experience it on a weekly basis.  Every Wednesday when golf is over and I walk out the doors of Ranken Jordan I do so hoping the kids got half as much from me as I received from them.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

An A-May-Zing Day!

Every year about this time I write a new blog post that seems familiar to me.  The reason for that is because I always write something about the annual Ranken Jordan golf tournament and what a great event it always is.  This year was no exception!  Just shy of a week ago, July 25 to be exact, the largest Ranken Jordan golf tournament to date was held at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis, MO.  Before I go any farther I want to say "thank you" to the 63 foursomes, dozens of sponsors, and the many volunteers to combined to create such a great day to benefit some amazing kids.  The turnout was incredible and I am already looking forward to see how much bigger the 2017 event can be!

Those who know me best know how much I look forward to the second weekend in April and all that Masters Week entails.  My three favorite golf shots of the year (although in 2016 there were only two) are when Mr. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player officially start the Masters Tournament.  For the past two years I have witnessed up close three other tee shots that are every bit as important to me as the three struck by those legends of the game.  Starting in 2015 we began our own tradition at the Ranken Jordan golf tournament by having 3 of our legends hit honorary tee shots to start the tournament.  This year the our starters were Sam Ward, Drew Hessler, and May Reynoso.  Instead of doing an inadequate job of explaining how incredible this ceremony was, please watch this short news story by Frank Cusumano of KSDK-TV5 (NBC) here in St. Louis:  Ranken Jordan Honorary Starters.

Drew Hessler preparing to hit his tee shot to start the golf tournament.

Sam Ward finishing his pre-shot routine before ripping his tee shot down the middle
After starting the tournament in such a wonderful way the day continued to get better as I went to join my group.  While we did not win the tournament (or really even come close), the group I played with enjoyed every second, laughed a lot, hit some good shots, and had a fantastic day overall.  However the quality of play had nothing to do with why this was one of the most special rounds of golf I have ever played.  The group I was part of consisted of one of our honorary starters, May Reynoso, and her family.  Being able to spend the day with them and watching May hit some great golf shots turned the day into one I will never forget.  May has worked very hard to overcome her health challenges.  Seeing her on the golf course smiling, laughing, playing, helping me drive the golf cart, and just being a kid, was an experience of a lifetime.  Following the tournament a video featuring May was shown to the 300+ people in attendance at the dinner.  For those of you wondering, no, I did not make it through the video with dry eyes.  The video can be viewed by clicking this link:  May's Video.

May once again knocking her approach shot closer than me

Playing in the Ranken Jordan golf tournament is always the highlight of my playing each year.  There is no tournament that I am a part of that carries as much significance as this one.  Seeing on a weekly basis why we are playing and why this tournament is so important is a huge reason for that.  There is an incredible amount of good done in one day for the kids; however there can always be more.  Next July I would like to write another blog post about having the largest Ranken Jordan golf tournament ever.  As mentioned earlier, we had 63 teams this year which means we have room for 9 more.  If you did not play this year, consider playing next year so you can see the three greatest golf shots of the year and learn why we all should "consider the children first in all that we do."
May, the star of the show!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Quotes From The Kids

"Wow! This is so much fun!  I love golf!"

"This is great!  Playing golf is fun!  You make me laugh & smile!"

Several times in the past I have included quotes like this in various blog posts.  And how could I not?  Any time you hear a child say things like this it gives you an indescribably great feeling.  What makes it even better is these comments came during the last two weeks from two different brand new golfers in our junior golf clinics at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  Every week the kids do or say something that amazes me and the last two weeks have certainly been no exception.

Over the last five years golf has become a regular part of therapy for the kids and is a great example of Ranken Jordan's "Care Beyond the Bedside" model.  Watching and helping the kids learn the game of a lifetime is a very rewarding and humbling experience.  There are plenty of examples of kids like Drew who played golf prior to coming to Ranken Jordan.  Having the opportunity to get back to doing something he had played and enjoyed before his injury has made doing his therapy much more fun (and tolerable).  Every week Drew comes to golf, stands up, and hits golf balls for the better part of an hour.  During this time we talk about anything imaginable, but we also spend a lot of time discussing how golf is helping him get better.  He is a very smart young man and completely understands the healing role golf can play.  Add to it the chance to get better while swinging a golf club and he always looks forward to "Golf Day" at Ranken Jordan!

Then there are the children like the two I quoted at the beginning of this post.  Before their time at Ranken Jordan neither one had played golf.  This is quite common and something that we have really come to enjoy as we start the process of turning them into golf addicts!  Hearing comments and getting feedback like this so soon after they were introduced to golf is a wonderful feeling.  Once I hear something like this I can almost guarantee who will be the first one to golf the following week (and who will want the therapists to get the golf clubs out on a regular basis)!  The best part about these two children is one of them came to the initial golf clinic and hit golf balls from a wheelchair.  Two weeks later after a lot of very hard work in therapy I watched as that same child stood up and took 10 swings before returning to the wheelchair.

Week after week I happily walk through the doors at Ranken Jordan to teach the kids how to play golf.  Each week when I leave I am in awe of something I have seen or heard from the kids.  There is not a week that goes by that I do not feel as if I got more from the time with them than they got from me.  I have said this many times, but I strongly encourage everyone to find a pediatric hospital or children's charity to volunteer your time to.  We always welcome help with the golf program at Ranken Jordan so those of you in the St. Louis area can contact me if that is of interest to you.  If you are not near St. Louis find a children's charity in your area.  I guarantee you that there is no more rewarding feeling than spending your time putting a smile on the face of a child.  As Mary Ranken Jordan was so fond of saying, "consider the children first in all you do."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


For those few of you who regularly read this blog you have noticed that it has been quite some time since the last post.  This is only partly by design.  Multiple times in the past few weeks I have found myself in front of the computer typing away only to delete what I typed and start over.  The last time I sat down with the intent of writing a new post I noticed something that I had not seen before.  Over the years of writing this blog I have put up 99 posts.  Upon realizing the next post would be #100, I decided to wait a bit longer and put up the new post on May 10, 2016.  Many of you likely do not know why this date has special significance to Ranken Jordan Community Program Director Janine Roe and me.  Five years ago on May 10, 2011, we held our first junior golf clinic at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  I think it is very safe to say that neither one of us had a clue what our golf program would evolve into and the significant impact it would have in the therapy of thousands of kids and their families.

I recall walking through the doors of Ranken Jordan for the first time just over 5 years ago.  The purpose of that visit was to meet with Janine to discuss the possibility of starting a junior golf program.  The second I walked in I immediately knew Ranken Jordan was a very special place.  After talking for a very short time we both knew this program was going to happen and just a few weeks later the first of our year round weekly junior golf clinic was in the books.  Since that first clinic 5 years ago there have been plenty of smiles, laughter, fun, tears of joy, great golf shots, and wonderful memories.  Friendships have been developed with the kids, their families, and the Ranken Jordan staff.  The experiences, relationships, and memories I have been so fortunate to have because of this program are all treasured.  I have said it many times before that there is no better feeling than putting a smile on the face of a child.  Through this program we have been able to do that every week.

A program like this could not attain this level of success without the help and support of a wide array of people.  Obviously the Ranken Jordan staff & volunteers, kids, and their families are vitally important to the success of the program.  Local PGA Professionals have graciously volunteered their time to teach the kids and our Gateway PGA Section has been incredibly generous.  U.S. Kids Golf has been a great partner to the program and the kids have certainly benefited by being able to use the best junior golf equipment made.  I have no doubt that without the support of these wonderful people and organizations (as well as all of those that my simple mind has omitted) that we would not be celebrating our 5 year anniversary and looking forward to many more years of golf for the kids at Ranken Jordan!

There is not a day that goes by that I am not truly grateful for having the opportunity to start the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  The trust and faith placed in me by the staff at Ranken Jordan to work and play with the kids is very humbling.  Spending so much time with so many incredible kids and their families is indescribable.  I could not begin to list all of them as each one has had their own special impact on me.  Watching their progress from week to week is mind-blowing.  To know that golf has played a small role in the physical, mental, emotional, and social improvement for so many kids is unreal.  The last 5 years at Ranken Jordan have been nothing short of amazing and I cannot wait to see what the next 5 years will hold.  Mere words cannot adequately describe what the time at Ranken Jordan has meant to me.  To everyone involved with our junior golf program . . . thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Step In The Right Direction

In today's climate of instant gratification and general lack of patience, it is not often that you get the opportunity (or recognize when you have that opportunity) to sit back and watch something happen over a period of time.  Being able to see a slow, steady progression and improvement in almost any environment typically leads to wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.  For some people this could be seeing their training runs getting longer and faster as they get closer to running a marathon.  Others may see regular improvement at work that eventually leads to a promotion and/or a raise.  For me, as I have said many times on this blog, I am incredibly fortunate to see this steady progression and improvement on a regular basis at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.

Recently we had a junior golfer join us during a golf clinic for what has become a regular part of his therapy.  Drew played every sport possible, including golf, prior to a very serious accident that led to his arrival at Ranken Jordan.  Rather than me do a very inadequate job of telling Drew's story, please watch this incredible video:  Drew's story.  As you hear about in the video, doctors told Drew and his family that he would not walk again . . . and then he walked out of Ranken Jordan.  He obviously has worked very, very hard in therapy to get to where he is at.  Shortly after coming to Ranken Jordan Drew joined us for golf.  Having been an avid player prior to his accident he was excited to hit a few shots.  After hitting about a dozen shots from his wheelchair he was tired and called it a day (a few hours of therapy prior to golf would have me worn out, too!).  Drew has continued to work hard in therapy and on his golf swing and has seen steady improvement.  At a recent clinic he came in and I handed him a golf club to get started.  He responded by saying he needed a longer club because he was going to stand up to hit.  We could not get him set up fast enough to stand up and swing!  These are the exact types of milestones and accomplishments that make this far more than your typical junior golf program.

We have had another junior golfer who recently started playing and whose story always brings a smile to my face.  Prior to coming to Ranken Jordan he had never touched a golf club in his life.  When initially asked to join us he really had no interest at all.  While watching the other kids hit golf balls and have fun he eventually decided to give it a try.  His swing was very natural and he was quickly banging golf balls off the windows of Warner's Corner.  Fast forward about 6 weeks and he pulled me aside to ask a question.  What he wanted to know was how he could keep playing golf after he was discharged to go home!  My response to him was the same as it is to every kid at Ranken Jordan.  I told him to concentrate on getting better and going home; I would take care of the golf side of it.  What this junior golfer does not know yet is that he will have a full set of golf clubs and brand new golf bag to take home with him when he is discharged.

Stories like these are what makes the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan so special and unique.  While we do focus on the game, success is not always defined by who made the most putts, hit the longest drive, or shot the lowest score.  Very frequently we determine success by who went from hitting golf balls in their wheelchair to standing up to hit, who had the stamina to hit for 5 more minutes than last week, who had the dexterity to progress to using an interlocking grip instead of a baseball grip, etc.  All of these things show that our junior golfers are seeing improvements with their health.  This is what matters.  Seeing the children improve physically, emotionally, and socially is incredible.  Put yourself in a position to see these things and you will understand.  All it takes is watching one child's face light up with an ear-to-ear smile after sinking a putt and you will be hooked.  As Mrs. Mary Ranken Jordan was fond of saying, "consider the children first in all that you do."