The decision to start a junior golf program at Ranken Jordan was a very easy one to make. With ample room outside and Warner’s Corner playground area inside, they have plenty of room to offer a year-round program. But the question that I had to answer was the same one that is often asked when talking about this program: Why? The response I came up with then is the same as it is now: Why not? Why shouldn’t these amazing kids have the opportunity to learn how to play the game that so many of us turn to for relaxation and use as an “escape?” Once that question was answered the next issue was how to make the concept a reality.
In the late winter and spring of 2011, I had several meetings with Janine Roe, CTRS, Community Programs Coordinator at Ranken Jordan. During these meetings we created the basic outline of the golf program. It was also decided that we would go into it without a lesson plan of any kind. As a PGA Professional accustomed to creating lesson plans for all students and clinics, this was a difficult way to enter a junior golf program! However, because of the serious, complex medical conditions affecting many of the kids, a lesson plan simply was not possible. Please click the link below to see more:
Almost 2 years since the first clinic we still do not operate with a lesson plan. Each week we work with the children who are able to attend and adapt our teaching according to their physical limitations. Why is this? There are no instructional programs I have been involved with where one of the students states his goal is “I want to learn to walk again.” (Luckily that young man reached his goal just a few short weeks later. I will expand on that in more detail in a later post). When faced with situations like this it is quite difficult to plan what will be taught from week to week. All we want to do is provide an experience that leaves the kids excited and ready for the next week’s session. Many times I have been told that kids have asked the therapists to get the golf equipment out during the week!
Having the ability to adapt and change on the fly is crucial to the success of a program like this. Each week we see different kids with different abilities. Those kids who are required to spend an extended amount of time at Ranken Jordan will see such a change in their physical ability that we have to constantly change our teaching with them. One week a kid may be playing as a right-handed player. The next week they may have to play left-handed. And then there are those weeks where a kid gets out of his wheelchair, walks up to the ball, and takes a swing while standing for the first time. Those are the times when change is the most necessary . . . and the most rewarding.