How To Help

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!

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Visit From the President, Vice-President, & Secretary

St. Louis and its love for sports was once again well represented by an exciting 2013 Senior PGA Championship played at Bellerive Country Club.  The city and surrounding communities turned out in record numbers to support the tournament and all of the participants.  St. Louis has long been known as the best baseball city in the country but the people here also have an indisputable passion for all sports.  The support this golf tournament received was no surprise just as the support shown to the St. Louis community from those involved in the tournament was no surprise.

PGA President Ted Bishop jumps in and offers a quick tip
 As I have referenced several times through the posts on this blog, charities play a central role in many golf events played every year.  These events range from small, local events that may raise several hundred dollars to a professional event that may contribute over $10 million each year.  You can easily find stories all over the internet and the charities section on the PGA Tour website does a great job documenting just how much charitable money is raised each week.  However one level of support goes unnoticed and unreported.

Each week many players and tournament officials spend time conducting clinics, visiting schools, or spending time with patients at local hospitals.  If you read the last post on the blog you learned that early in the week of the Senior PGA Championship Ranken Jordan had a visit from 1987 U.S. Open champion Scott Simpson.  You may also have seen this story reported on the Fox 2 or KSDK-TV 5 news here in St. Louis.  What wasn't reported was the visit Ranken Jordan had on Friday of the golf tournament.  This visit was from the three officers of the PGA of America:  President Ted Bishop, Vice-President Derek Sprague, and Secretary Paul Levy.

Paul Levy, Ted Bishop, Lauri Tanner, Kevin Corn, & Derek Sprague with Deontay & Patrick
Anyone who has played golf knows there is a tremendous amount of behind the scenes work that goes into running a successful golf tournament.  While the PGA of America has a staff dedicated to running their events, the officers have a great deal of responsibility before and during the week of the championship.  Even with all of the responsibilities and demands on their time, Mr. Bishop, Mr. Sprague, and Mr. Levy still found time to visit Ranken Jordan, work with the kids, and tour the hospital.  Almost immediately upon arriving at the hospital they dove right in and began sharing their knowledge of the game with the kids.  After working with the kids, spending time getting to know them a little bit, and giving out golf balls and hats, they went on a tour of the hospital led by Lauri Tanner, President & CEO at Ranken Jordan.  Their 90 minute visit left them amazed at the work done by Ranken Jordan and impressed with the way the kids can hit a golf ball!

PGA Vice-President Derek Sprague offering swing tips while Kevin Corn, PGA, looks on and PGA President Ted Bishop poses for a picture in the background

These visits are often the level of involvement that is not discussed or reported.  I wanted to highlight it because it shows the generous nature of these three gentlemen and also begins to illustrate that it doesn't always take money to improve what a charitable organization provides.  These three men gave an hour and a half of their time to bring smiles to the faces of these kids and tell the staff "thank you" for the work they do on a daily basis.  Every week I see the value of simply spending time with the kids and doing the "little things" that help them simply be kids.  Financial contributions are critical to providing the facility and ability to be able to take care of the kids who so badly need what Ranken Jordan offers them.  But our weekly golf clinics, and the visits from Scott Simpson and the PGA's President, Vice-President, and Secretary, perfectly illustrate how critical volunteer time is and the positive effects of what the game of golf can give these kids.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Golf Lesson of a Lifetime

The 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid is being played this week in St. Louis at Bellerive Country Club.  As with any professional golf tournament there is a tremendous amount of benefit to the local community and a wide-variety of charities.  One of the primary reasons the PGA of America selected Bellerive as the host site for this event as well as the 2018 PGA Championship is the development of the PGA REACH program.  This innovative new program was developed by our Section's Executive Director, Josh Riley, and a small group of key members at Bellerive.  Through their hard work St. Louis sports fans were rewarded with these two great golf tournaments.

Sometime shortly after Christmas I got the idea that the kids at Ranken Jordan would enjoy having one (or more) of the players in this year's tournament come to the hospital and give them some tips on their golf swing.  With that in mind I looked at the roster of players on the Champions Tour and who would likely be in town to play in this tournament.  I narrowed the list to a small group of "good" guys who have been involved with charities benefiting kids or people with disabilities (and both in some cases).  Of the 4 players I contacted two replied almost immediately and expressed their desire to visit Ranken Jordan.  Those two players were Scott Simpson and David Frost (who ultimately chose to play in the PGA Tour event this week and did not come to St. Louis).

Mikey T. with his mom and grandmother surrounded by Scott Simpson, Kevin Corn, Brett Moorehouse, and Jon Loesch

After exchanging numerous e-mails with 1987 U.S. Open winner Scott Simpson, we decided I would pick him up at Bellerive following the Tuesday pro-am and he would spend an hour or so with the kids at Ranken Jordan.  For those who have never met Scott or don't know much about him, we could not have had a nicer, more gracious professional golfer spend time with the kids and offer suggestions on how they could hit the ball better.  Scott spent almost an hour giving tips to the kids, staff members, and small group of media who were there.  He filmed a couple of interviews (please click HERE to watch the KSDK-TV 5 story) and answered any and all questions asked of him.  Prior to leaving he toured the facility with Dr. Nick Holekamp and signed several golf balls to give to the kids.

These are the types of things players do that oftentimes go unnoticed.  It is the week of a major championship and Scott certainly didn't have to generously give his time to visit the kids at Ranken Jordan.  Prior to this I had never met him nor had any contact with him; I was just hoping one of the players I contacted would like the program and want to see how we are impacting the kids with the game of golf.  Yet here is Scott walking off the practice green, putting his clubs in my car, and driving over to Ranken Jordan with me to spend time with the kids when he could be practicing.  His visit provided a tremendous boost to the kids and gave another opportunity to increase the exposure of Ranken Jordan throughout the St. Louis area and the golf community in general.

Deontay showing off his skills while Scott Simpson, Kevin Corn, and Lauri Tanner look on
In the future I would like to see and hear more about players doing these types of things.  I have written about the amount of money donated through golf and it is well known that golf contributes a ridiculous amount of money to charity every year.  However, more often than not, the time that can be spent with the people directly affected by the charities can be just as important as giving them more money.  The expressions we saw on the faces of the kids while Scott was there made it clear that his time had a tremendous impact on them.  Who knows, maybe the PGA Tour will hire me to establish one of these programs in every city with a PGA Tour event and/or a Champions Tour event!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Donating A Smile

The single most rewarding part of the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan is seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids when they hit a good golf shot or make a putt.  Yes it is great to see the kids who enjoy the game so much that they continue to play after they leave the hospital.  And it is wonderful to watch family members smile and cry when they watch shot after shot flying through the air.  But nothing compares to that ear-to-ear smile when a kid feels that "click" from a well struck shot and realizes that they can play golf regardless of their physical limitations.

Elijah making another chip shot into the net.  The progress he has made with his rehabilitation is amazing; his wheelchair is a thing of the past!
 Several of the posts on this blog have mentioned how supportive Josh Riley and the Gateway PGA Foundation have been.  Their help and support have allowed this program to succeed and impact many more kids than we could have ever imagined.  It is true that the support from the facility (Ranken Jordan) and instructors (PGA Professionals) will ultimately determine the success of the program.  However, without the backing of the Gateway PGA Foundation the program would have been much more difficult to get off the ground.  They have generously provided the equipment necessary to allow the kids to learn the game of golf and enjoy the benefits of being involved with a sport alongside other kids.  The only question that has ever been asked is "What do you need?"

The Gateway PGA Section does not have to be alone when it comes to supporting the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  You can get involved in your own way and to whatever level you are comfortable.  You can go to bed every night knowing that you provided the necessary support for one (or more) of these amazing kids to show off their ear-to-ear smile.  Are you asking yourself, "How can I be the reason for the excitement and enjoyment these kids are seeing every week through the game of golf?"  If you are the answer is very simple:  Donate to the junior golf program.  Here are just some of the golf-related items we use, or could use, on a regular basis:

  • US Kids Golf Clubs:  As mentioned in many of the posts these are the clubs we use each week for the clinics.  I would like to be able to send at least 1 club home with each kid who expresses a real interest in continuing to play the game of golf when they leave the hospital.  One young man, Corey, who I wrote about in a previous post, went home with a putter, putting green, and golf balls.  We unfortunately do not have the means to do this with very many of the kids.
  • Almost Golf Balls:  These are the golf balls we use for the clinics.  They are limited flight, much softer than regular golf balls, and allow us to move seamlessly from outdoors to indoors when weather dictates.  When kids go home with golf clubs we would also like to be able to send some of these golf balls with them.
  • Golf Accessories:  Hats, towels, ball mark repair tools, etc.  One of the visions I had for this program was having a "going home package" to give to the kids when they leave the hospital.  As mentioned above, this would be for those who are seriously interested in continuing to play once they go home.  It would be wonderful to be able to set up the kids with some of the basic items needed for a round of golf.  The few hats I have given to the kids, all with the Ranken Jordan logo somewhere on the hat, have been incredibly popular.
  • Practice Aids:  Putting mats, chipping nets, and full-swing nets are used each week in the clinics.  These would also be great items to send home with the kids who would benefit from using them to further their golf game.  Corey certainly enjoys the putting mat he went home with!
Corey & his mother with the practice putting mat and putter that he went home with.  He also received some Titleist golf balls to use for his practice!

Some of you may be concerned about making sure you are purchasing the correct items to donate.  You can solve that issue one of two ways by either making a monetary donation or contacting me to guide you to the right items.  Whichever path you choose to proceed down, I encourage you to contact me first (my e-mail address is at the top of the page) and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.  Your donations can go directly to Ranken Jordan or to the Gateway PGA Foundation.  Both organizations are 501 (c)(3) charities so you will receive the necessary information for your taxes.  Another way to make a financial contribution is to the Gateway PGA Golf Day.  These donations will go to various charities, Ranken Jordan being one, around the Gateway PGA Section and can be made through August 8, 2013.  Please click HERE to be taken to the donation page.

Establishing this program has easily been the best thing I have ever done in my golf career.  Having the knowledge that what we are doing at Ranken Jordan is making such a huge difference is an amazing feeling.  You can enjoy that same feeling by knowing that you are providing the means for these kids to enjoy the game of golf.  Please contact me with any questions you have or to make a donation.  Not only will you impact the lives of the kids at Ranken Jordan, but you will have an impact on your own life as well.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

2 Years & Counting!

In all likelihood May 10, 2013 will come and go with little significance in the grand scheme of things.  At Ranken Jordan, however, this date will mark the 2 year anniversary of the start of our "Learn To Golf" program.  To me, it is no surprise that the clinic we do next Tuesday will be the beginning of our 3rd year.  What is a surprise is the impact we have had throughout the first 2 years.

Some of the benefits to the kids that were initially discussed were the physical, social, and emotional improvements they could/would see by participating in a sport, especially a sport they could continue to play when they leave the hospital.  These benefits have been evident on a weekly basis and can be seen just by walking through the hospital.  I have seen the improved strength, lengthened swings, better coordination, more outgoing personality, etc., in many of the kids who have been to several of the clinics.  I have heard the stories of how the kids will ask the therapists to get the golf equipment out during the week so they can play and practice before the next clinic.  I have seen the smiles light up a kid's face when they recognize one of the PGA Professionals walking through Warner's Corner to get ready for golf.  I have also watched a 13 year old reach his goal of "learning to walk again" as his first steps lead him to the putting green where he is about to sink the first putt he looks at outside of his wheelchair.  These benefits barely scratch the surface to what has been accomplished at Ranken Jordan through the game of golf.

There are days I have stood next to a parent, grandparent, or sibling, and watched tears of joy stream down their face as they watch ball after ball flying through the air.  Oftentimes it is because they never expected the junior golfer they are watching to be able to participate in any sport due to their physical limitations.  We have shown the kids and their families that they can enjoy a sport and they can be a part of athletics.  The mixture of emotions shown when they realize this is incredible.  I don't believe there are many facilities like Ranken Jordan where you can hear a conversation involving which golf course the family should go to when they leave the hospital.  I have been fortunate to be involved in those conversations and look forward to many more of them as we move into the future.

Ranken Jordan has also enjoyed benefits from the "Learn To Golf" program.  Because there are so few of these programs around the country it is something people want to talk about.  We have had stories on television, in newspapers, and national magazines.  Each time a story is reported it increases the awareness of the hospital and promotes the miracles they are achieving every day.  People around St. Louis are talking about the golf program and again, every time they speak about it, Ranken Jordan is put in front of someone else who may not know about the great things the hospital does.  Then there is the Gateway PGA Golf Day.  In 2012 this event donated almost $11,000 to Ranken Jordan.  Our PGA Section's hope is that the 2013 event can blow that total out of the water!  To help with that, click HERE and then click on the "Donate" button.

In a lot of ways 2 years isn't a significant amount of time.  As it relates to our junior golf program I feel that it is if for no other reason than the number of kids who have been impacted through this program.  Almost every week I see or hear how golf is changing and improving the lives of the kids at Ranken Jordan.  Each of these instances leads to the almost 1,200 kids who have been impacted during the first 2 years of our program.  Hopefully over the next 2 years (and well beyond that) we will see more than 1,200 kids exposed to life-changing benefits from the game of golf!