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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!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Next on the Tee . . .

One of the benefits of working so closely with the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan is having the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of very influential people within the game of golf.  There are not many of these types of programs around the country; when the topic is brought up people have a lot of questions and want to know more.  Many of you will remember reading about the visit from the PGA Officers during the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid.  President Ted Bishop, Vice-President Derek Sprague, and Secretary Paul Levy took time from their schedule to offer some tips to the kids and tour the hospital.  Champions Tour player and 1987 U.S. Open winner Scott Simpson also generously gave of his time to work with the kids.  During one of his interviews he even commented, "how can you say no to something like this?"

Paul Levy, Ted Bishop, Lauri Tanner, Kevin Corn, & Derek Sprague relaxing with two junior golfers
It is difficult to believe but some of these influential people I have talked with have actually said "no" to this program.  Late last year I was discussing the program with a group of folks who commented that it seemed we were not trying to get these kids onto the golf course.  In a way that statement is correct.  Our goals of this program do not revolve around getting these kids from their hospital bed at Ranken Jordan to the first tee.  What we are trying to do ties right into one of the stated goals of Ranken Jordan:  get them out of bed and out of their hospital room so they can be active and enjoy being a kid.  Over the 2 1/2 years of this program we have seen the healing powers golf has and what it has allowed these kids to do while they are trying to get better.  Every week we see them smiling, laughing, and interacting with the other kids.  We see their hand-eye coordination improving, increases in strength, greater flexibility, improved balance, etc.  The list of physical improvements goes on and on.  We have also seen greater social interaction between the kids and changes in personalities.  All of these things far outweigh whether or not the kids ever make it to the golf course.

Happy, happy, happy

However the statement that we are not trying to get the kids onto the golf course is also incorrect.  We are exposing the game of golf to these kids and many have expressed the desire to continue playing once they leave the hospital.  Jack Nicklaus commented that "we need to introduce all kids to the game of golf in a way that is friendly and welcoming."  If the kids who participate in our program had not been at Ranken Jordan they would have never been introduced to the game.  The atmosphere is always friendly and it is certainly welcoming!  The comment from Mr. Nicklaus could have well been included in my last post about expanding to "non-traditional" groups of people to introduce to golf.  When one of the kids from our program is discharged from the hospital, they are given all of my contact information and encouraged to continue playing.  I have a standing offer to any of the kids to put them in contact with a local PGA Professional who will help them continue playing golf.  Many of the kids have left the hospital with golf clubs, golf balls, and other equipment, so they can continue what they have started.

Later this summer we will be taking the kids to Crystal Springs Golf Course where they will have the opportunity to get out onto the driving range and play a couple of holes.  The kids will not be playing all 18 holes, or even 9 holes, but they will be playing golf.  They will be hitting the shots and making the putts just like everybody else playing at Crystal Springs that day.  This is one of the things that has to happen for kids like this around the country to be able to play more golf:  they have to have access to golf courses.  Many courses are not overly accessible to people with disabilities and plenty are not overly welcoming.  Want to see programs like this putting more people on the golf course?  Make golf courses more accessible and more welcoming and you likely will see more golfers.  The Missouri Golf Association is building a golf course that will be 100% accessible.  Golf needs more of this and more people thinking like MGA Executive Director Scott Hovis.

I will undoubtedly write about the time spent on the driving range and golf course at Crystal Springs.  Hopefully I will have the opportunity to write more about programs like this being established around the country and local courses welcoming participants to come play . . . regardless of the number of holes that can be completed.  The people who spoke negatively about the program because it is not focused on getting the kids on the golf course do not get it.  Yes, we would love to see all of these kids on the golf course at some point in the future.  Golf is helping each and every one of these kids as they fight, and beat, the challenges they are faced with.  More than getting them on the golf course, we want to see smiling faces and positive results from therapy so these kids can get home.

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