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Monday, June 3, 2013

A Great Compensation Package

It is amazing what a couple of short television news stories can do for the awareness of a golf program at a pediatric hospital.  Following the stories done by Art Holliday with KSDK-TV 5 (NBC affiliate in St. Louis) and Martin Kilcoyne with Fox 2 (Fox affiliate in St. Louis) people from all over have been asking questions of me, my family members, friends, etc.  You would think that the questions would relate to the visits we had during the Senior PGA Championship from Chamions Tour Player Scott Simpson, PGA President Ted Bishop, PGA Vice-President Derek Sprague, and PGA Secretary Paul Levy.  However the questions have been more about the program in general, specifically how the kids are able to play golf and how am I compensated.

Scott Simpson giving Deontay tips while Kevin Corn and Lauri Tanner look on

The latter part of that last statement is what this post will focus on and those of you who have read the blog posts since the beginning can provide a quick answer:  I am not compensated financially for the weekly golf clinics at Ranken Jordan.  Neither are any of the other PGA Professionals who have provided instruction to the kids.  You want to know the funny thing?  None of us have ever even thought about being paid for doing what we do.  The rewards we get from working with the kids far outweigh what a paycheck could provide.  How many of you have been a part of anything where a 13 year old tells you they want to learn how to walk . . . and then you watch him take his first steps up to a putting green, sink a few putts, and then walk back to his wheelchair?  Or how many of you have ever had a mother crying on your shoulder as she thanks you for making her wheelchair bound son's dream of playing golf come true?  Maybe you have at least had a "sword fight" (using putters) as a way of convincing a 6 year old boy he really needed to go to therapy.  I could go on and on with examples like this.  Situations like this do not happen every week, but they do happen regularly.  Typically what we see that provides all the "compensation" we need is a huge smile when one of the kids hits a ball on the sweet spot and gets that special feeling all golfers long for.

When told that the instructors have never been paid a dime, nor will they be, most people are left in disbelief.  What they apparently don't get is that the reason we are doing this is because we know we are making a difference.  Maybe the difference will be that some of the kids will continue playing golf when the leave the hospital and our game will benefit accordingly.  Maybe the difference will be some of the kids will see improved strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, social interaction, and greater self-confidence.  Maybe the difference will be that some of the kids will see their bad day turned into a good day because of the time they got to spend playing golf.  Or just maybe the difference will be simply allowing these great kids to be kids for an hour each week.  Speaking from 2+ years of experience I can tell you the difference is all the above and then some.  Since starting the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan it has become obvious to me what a great healing tool golf is for these kids and that is really all that matters.

PGA Vice-President Derek Sprague helping Tyler get lined up

Imagine if you were in a hospital after being hit by a car, as the result of a stroke, or an issue with your lower body that leaves you confined to a wheelchair.  As adults many of you can put yourself in that place and begin to think about how you might deal with the situation.  Now imagine if that scenario happened during your youth while you were growing up.  Instead of going outside and playing with your friends during summer break you are going to therapy on a daily basis hoping that at some point you will be able to get out of your wheelchair for good.  Your dreams are the ones that many kids have of playing professional baseball or being a police officer.  How do you think you would deal with that situation?  I would expect your answer to be a bit different than how you would handle it as an adult.

Corey is already talking to his mom about how often he will practice his putting!

My role at Ranken Jordan, and the role of all the other PGA Professionals who help, is not to find the next Rory McIlroy or Natalie Gulbis.  We are there to provide an outlet for these great kids to simply be kids and see that they can be involved in a sport if they choose to.  As I mentioned, golf is a great recovery tool and our program is used that way in a lot of instances.  If what little time we spend there can brighten the day of any of the kids then we have had a very successful clinic.  Of course, I always enjoy hearing from the kids who have left the hospital and still continue to play golf.  But what I really cherish, and the reason why I go back every week, is to see the smiles and hear the kids say "this is fun!"

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