One of the great things about being a PGA Professional is waking up each morning and having the opportunity to do something for a living that I am truly passionate about. I clearly remember standing on the driving range as a 16 year old participant in a junior golf camp at PGA National with LPGA Hall of Famer Annette Thompson, PGA Professional Warren Bottke, Evie Jo Larrimore, and several other instructors, and telling Annette, "I want to do what you do for a living." Of course part of this decision had to do with the fact that I much prefer going to work in a golf shirt rather than a dress shirt and tie as well as being at a golf course instead of an office building. But the primary reason was that is the time I realized I thoroughly enjoy helping other people have more fun playing golf.
Anybody who plays golf knows how frustrating it can be. And anybody who plays golf knows that no matter how frustrated you get you will play again . . . eventually. The part I enjoy is taking that frustrated golfer to the range, making a tweak or two, and seeing the light go on once they realize what it is they need to do. Next thing you know they are going straight to the first tee. In almost every instance, anyone who has played the game for an extended period of time will see that what was causing them to hit less than perfect shots was only a minor issue. In golf small changes can lead to great improvements and rewards.
The same premise applies for a beginning golfer as well as the kids we see at Ranken Jordan. Many times those players who have yet to be exposed to the game have the perception that golf is too hard for them to start. I never tire of seeing a kid's face light up when they make their first putt or hit that first crisp shot that makes them say, "Hey, I can do this!" That concept is one of the major things we try to make very clear to the patients at Ranken Jordan. Regardless of their physical limitations, each one of them can participate in golf on some level. There are those kids who may not be able to do more than hit some balls at the driving range or play a couple of holes. Then there are others who will be able to play a full round. Whatever the case may be, they all should be shown that they can play and be given the opportunity to determine if they want to play.
Since my last post I have had the privilege of talking to several pediatric facilities, golf professionals, and business people from around the country (and world for that matter) about starting a similar junior golf program in their area. I want this trend to continue. Hopefully in future posts I will be able to tell you about new programs being started in cities around the country. There are many pediatric facilities in each of our 41 PGA Sections and I hope we can touch as many as possible. Whether or not the kids who participate in the clinics while they are in the hospital continue to play once they are out, we should still try to put a program like this in as many hospitals as we can. If nothing else, the clinics can create a distraction from the challenges they are facing and allow them to get more out of their therapy, rehab, or healing process. And, as it relates to golf, we show them that they can play and let them make the decision if they want to play.