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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!

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."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


The new year has really only just begun yet it seems like it is already flying by.  Super Bowl 50 was played last night and pitchers & catchers report to spring training in 10 days.  These are two sure signs that spring is just around the corner, or at least it is according to a certain groundhog in Pennsylvania.  As someone who is not overly fond of cold weather I sure hope Phil was correct and we are going to have an early spring!  While I was sitting with my family watching the Super Bowl and wearing my Carolina Panthers Luke Kuechly jersey (yes, it was tough for me to sit quietly and watch my team play so poorly), I saw a commercial that was aired only in the St. Louis region.  This commercial ripped the ownership of the franchise that just left St. Louis for sunny Southern California.  However there was one line in it that really struck me:  "just because it's legal and you're rich enough to do it, that doesn't make it right."

Some (or many) of you may be reading this and wondering how does that quote from a local attorney directed towards an arrogant, self-centered billionaire owner of an NFL team tie into this blog and the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital?  Read it again and as the late, great Harvey Penick would advise his students on the golf range, boil it down to its simplest form.  What this quote is saying is that at times, regardless of any additional factors, you just have to do what is right.  It may not be the best business decision or might ruffle a few feathers, but you sometimes have to make difficult decisions with your heart rather than your bank account and focus on a greater good.  Again, a lot of you are probably sitting there thinking I am about as sharp as a marble and am doing nothing more than rambling.  What can be the connection?  Do I have any clue what I am talking about?  I think I do (for what that is worth).

When I heard that commercial and quote around halftime of the game, it reminded me of a question I have been asked numerous times over the past 5 years.  That question, even in its myriad deliveries, always carries the same meaning.  People have asked repeatedly why I started the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  A lot of them will add to the question as they know that in 2010 I had no personal reasons to start it.  We were fortunate that my son was born healthy and to this day his greatest medical issue has been needing tubes in his ears (like father, like son).  Why, then, if I had never had the personal need for an incredible facility like Ranken Jordan would I want to start a junior golf program there?  Simple:  It was the right thing to do.  There is nothing more to it than that.  As I mentioned, it really is a fairly simple concept.  Starting a junior golf program in a pediatric hospital may not be the most effective way to grow the game of golf but this is one of those times when it is about more than that.

I know that there are many, many options when it comes to growing the game of golf and introducing new players to the game that could do so in a more effective manner.  However when I started the program at Ranken Jordan none of that entered my mind.  The focus of this program is not growing the game.  Our main focus is using golf to put smiles on the faces of the kids in the hospital, allow them to heal faster, and go home to their families sooner.  I would be lying if I said I do not want to see new golfers come out of this program.  I absolutely do.  We are showing these kids and their families that they can play golf regardless of their medical conditions.  We just do that in a roundabout way and make sure the kids have fun first.  This junior golf program is about kids smiling, laughing, playing, having fun, and healing.  For me it is doing the right thing as my mother and father taught me.  I encourage each of you reading this to find something you are passionate about to do the right thing.  While you are at it tell a friend to do the same thing.  There are many things you can do which will increase your revenue in your business or inflate your bank account but those things can be gone just as quickly.  When you do something to put a smile on the face of a child or hear their sweet laughter, those memories can never be taken away from you.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

One Step At A Time

Those golfers who spend much time on the driving range working to hone their swings can typically tell when a new student is taking their first lesson with a particular PGA Professional. As is typically the case, the first lesson begins with a short conversation with the professional asking several questions of the new pupil. The questions cover a variety of topics including how long the student has played, current handicap, common mistakes, short- and long-term goals, physical issues that may hinder their game, etc. It is a necessary and very important conversation for both the student, the PGA Professional. Both are able to begin establishing a relationship that will allow for the correct instruction to be given enabling the golfer to see the greatest benefit and therefore improve their game as much as possible. This same conversation happens with each new junior golfer who joins in the weekly “Golf Day” clinics at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.

Such was the case one afternoon a few years ago at an early November clinic when a 13 year old young man named A.J. came to his first golf clinic. A.J.’s therapist pushed him in his wheelchair to the clinic and told everyone that he was looking forward to playing golf. As the PGA Professionals squatted down to talk to A.J. and learn a little bit about him and what he wanted to get out of learning to play golf, he boldly stated “I want to learn how to walk again.” This caused everyone to smile and promise to work hard right alongside A.J. to make his goal into reality. A.J. did not hesitate to get started as he immediately wheeled himself over to the line of U.S. Kids Golf clubs and quickly selected a driver. As most of the children prefer, A.J. swung with one arm from the side of his wheelchair and picked it up right off the bat. In depth instruction did not begin right away; rather A.J. was allowed to start to develop his own swing and provide feedback on what felt good to him.

Over the next few weeks out-going A.J. worked hard in therapy and on his golf swing. He was never shy to ask questions or want to try something different. A.J. was always the life of the golf clinics, constantly talking, smiling, and laughing. Minor tweaks and adjustments were made to his setup position allowing him to take a fuller backswing while in his wheelchair. The most comfortable position that provided the best results was a slightly closed setup. A closed setup is where the front foot, hip, and shoulder are closer to the ball while the back foot, hip, and shoulder are farther away. A.J. and the PGA Professionals found that this allowed him to take a longer backswing and hit the golf ball much straighter and farther. While A.J. continued to improve his golf game, what he did not tell anyone was how much he was improving in therapy.

Ranken Jordan President & CEO Lauri Tanner with Cooper Burks

Golf clinics at Ranken Jordan are held 52 weeks a year regardless of inclement weather, scheduling conflicts, or holidays. Adjustments to the day of the week may be made if major holidays fall on the regularly scheduled day for golf, but the kids will still have the opportunity to hit golf balls every week. A few short weeks after A.J. arrived at his first golf clinic and let everyone know he wanted to learn how to walk again; he came to the golf clinic the week before Christmas. On this particular day the clinic was going to be primarily putting and chipping practice. There were more people with A.J. this time than usual, therapists, family, nurses, etc. A few children were already there working on their putting stroke or trying to chip golf balls into the target nets. There was one putting mat available that A.J. had his eyes on. Everyone expected to see A.J. wheel himself over to the golf clubs, get his favorite putter, and head for the green. Today, however, A.J. had a different thought. With his therapists standing right beside him, A.J. got out of his wheelchair, was secured into a stander, and he walked to the open putting mat. A.J. stood as he hit a few putts then turned and walked back to his wheelchair. Mission accomplished. There was not a dry eye in the room.