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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!

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