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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!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Revisiting the "Why"

An issue that I addressed in one of the earliest posts on this blog is why I started the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  The simple answer to that is the one I gave in that early post:  "Why not?"  However in the months that have passed since writing that post I have been fortunate to have several in depth conversations with some of the kids, their families, Ranken Jordan staff, and other golf professionals around the country who work with physically challenged players.  Through these conversations it has become extremely clear that programs like this are much more than just exposing these kids to the game of golf.  Time spent playing golf is very meaningful to all of those involved, especially the kids.

During these conversations a variety of points have been raised that begin to make you realize what playing golf means to and does for the kids and their families.  Parents have shared with me how great it is to have the opportunity to play a sport with their child.  I have also heard from the parents what it means to the kids.  Take this quote as an example:

"My son has a love for sports.  Due to multiple hip surgeries he has been confined to a wheelchair most of his life. One of the many sports he loves is golf.  When he was a patient at Ranken Jordan he was able to fulfill one of his wishes.  That wish was to play golf.  Ranken Jordan offers children with disabilities so many wonderful opportunities, but their golf program was my son's favorite.  The golf professionals that came in were incredible.  They taught him how to swing a golf club in his wheelchair.  They took one of his dreams and made it a reality.  I was fortunate enough to witness the look of sheer happiness and confidence on his face as he saw that he was able to enjoy sports.  I am so grateful to Ranken Jordan and their program for allowing him to have this opportunity of a lifetime."

It does not take much discussion to quickly realize the significant positive impact golf has in the lives of medically complex children.  Whether it be a wish being fulfilled, showing them how they can play the game of a lifetime, or simply helping with their rehabilitation, the golf program has given these kids possibilities they likely did not realize were available to them.  By taking the kids to the golf course and putting them into single-passenger carts they have seen a level of independence that they did not know was there for them.  We have seen golf be the reason why a kid goes through their daily rehab (and in some cases golf has been the rehab).

These examples bring it back to the original point of why I started this program and why I am so excited every week when I get to the hospital.  The reason that comes to my mind and won't leave is that starting this program was the right thing to do.  I do not have a fancy explanation or long drawn out narrative explaining why.  It was just the right thing to do.  One smile or one high five following a well-struck shot or a holed putt is all the reason that I need.  I am fortunate to see first-hand what I consider to be miracles and hopefully play some small role in the recovery of these amazing kids.  Golf has given a tremendous amount to the more than 1,400 kids (and counting) who have been part of our program.  But the one who has been given the most is me.  To each and every one of the kids who has been to "golf day" . . . thank you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Few More Stories

Most of the time when I sit down to write a blog post I try to come up with something different to talk about or at least discuss a topic that I haven't mentioned in a while.  This one, however, is not going to be like that.  Our golf clinic this morning at Ranken Jordan - A Pediatric Specialty Hospital in St. Louis, MO, was so incredible that I decided to do nothing more than talk about it in this post.  Even after 125 or so golf clinics there are still days like today that leave me totally amazed and defy description.

For those of you not in the St. Louis area this morning wasn't exactly ideal for golf.  Temperatures were in the low 60's and we had a steady rain all morning long.  Yes, many folks would pull on rain gear and tee it up regardless.  But those people don't have medical equipment that has to go with them everywhere and be plugged in to an electrical outlet.  Weather conditions like these show one of the reasons why Ranken Jordan is such a special facility.  Just because it is raining doesn't mean the kids will not be able to play golf.  We simply set up in either Warner's Corner or the gym and they play away!  Rain, snow, sleet, too cold, too hot . . . none of it prevents the kids from getting their golf in.  Not allowing the rainy weather to put a damper on spirits is only one reason why today was such a great day.  Three of the kids who played today left me in awe.

Warner's Corner indoor playground area at Ranken Jordan
The first junior golfer I have talked about many times in the past.  She is always one of the first ones to get to the tee, but today she was absent.  When we went to look for her we found her sitting by a window looking out at the dreary weather.  As soon as I knelt down next to her and asked if she wanted to play golf that big smile that we all know so well spread across her face.  The young lady who not too long ago could not swing the club by herself or play for more than a few minutes without needing to rest was on her way to the gym.  For the next hour she hit putt after putt, chipped a few balls into the net she was using as a target, and sent several shots sailing across the room with her sweet swing.  The entire time the smile never left her face.  I have watched first-hand her improvement as a golfer but most importantly her recovery and physical improvements.  Knowing that golf has played a role in improving her rehabilitation is a constant reminder to me that we are doing good things for the kids in our golf program.

Last week we had two new golfers join us.  The first of those arrived in a wheelchair and wearing a brace around his torso that would prevent him from making a full backswing.  Neither of those things stopped him from grabbing a driver and ripping drives that any seasoned player would be happy with.  Did I mention that was his first time picking up a golf club?  This week he was back and ready for more.  The only difference between last week and today was that he walked in rather than coming in his wheelchair.  During his time hitting balls he needed to take a couple of breaks, but those did not last long as he was anxious to keep working on the small change we made to his takeaway.  One small adjustment was all it took to have him sending shots soaring across the gym and banging off the wall.  Not only was I amazed to see the quality of shots he was hitting but to do so standing up was simply incredible!

Our other new golfer last week came to us in his hospital bed.  He was laying on his stomach but wanted to hit some golf balls.  Naturally we brought him over to an astroturf mat and hat him going before he knew it.  Of course his swing was limited in length but he made up for it in desire.  He constantly asked questions and only wanted to take short rests.  This week was no different.  After spending most of his time last week with the full swing he told us he wanted to learn how to putt this week.  I told him I would also like to learn how to putt but I would have him making putts in no time.  We spent most of our time working from about 6 feet and it was not long before he was routinely making 3 or 4 putts in a row!  Was I impressed, shocked, or in awe?  All of the above.  The great volunteers we have helping on a regular basis also felt the same way.

Days like today make it very easy to go back every week and work with the kids.  They enjoy it, the staff & volunteers enjoy it, and I enjoy it.  Most importantly the kids are having fun and getting better at the same time.  Many of these kids have been told they can't do something when they ask to get involved.  At Ranken Jordan that does not happen.  Our golf program follows in those same footsteps.  Any and every kid who wants to be a part of the program and learn how to play golf is welcomed with open arms.  Seeing their excitement and enthusiasm from week to week greatly contributes to the success of the junior golf program.  But the true definition of success comes from seeing the physical, mental, and emotional improvement in each of the kids as they learn the game of a lifetime.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Another Marathon Complete

Ask any golf professional about charity golf events and they will tell you that they are involved with them on a wide variety of levels.  We all host them at our golf courses.  Many golf professionals are on the golf committee for a cause that is close to their heart.  Play in one of the thousands of charity events and you will likely see at least one PGA Professional playing in the event to help support the charity.  Whatever the specific nature of involvement we all know how important these events are to our golf facility, the individual charity, and the community as a whole.

On multiple occasions on this blog I have written about my involvement with the Gateway PGA Section's Golf Day Marathon.  This is a season long even that asks our Section's professionals to commit to playing 100 holes of golf in one day.  Given our schedules and the amount of hours worked by a golf professional in season this is no small commitment!  The professionals who play get friends, relatives, members, and golfers at their course to pledge their financial support to raise money for selected charities.  This was the second year for the event in the Gateway PGA and on October 7, 2013, we held a "thank you" pro am event at Annbriar Golf Course for many of the generous donors.  The great day of golf was highlighted at dinner by the recognition of the charities and the check presentation.

This year we once again supported Hospice of Southern Illinois, Ranken Jordan - A Pediatric Specialty Hospital, and the Gateway PGA Foundation.  Two new charities that were involved this year were the Columbia (MO) Golf Foundation and Quincy (IL) Junior Golf.  After hosting, running, and playing in so many charity events it is particularly rewarding to be involved with the PGA Golf Day and see the impact our efforts have on our community through these charities.  I feel comfortable in saying that there is not one golf professional in our Section who has not had a direct experience with at least one of these charities.  In the Quincy area, Gideon Smith, PGA, has introduced a golf in school program to new junior golfers at each of the six Quincy elementary schools and will soon expand to Springfield, IL.  The money donated to the Columbia Golf Foundation will be used for a similar endeavor.  Hospice of Southern Illinois covers 27 counties throughout the area and provides a compassionate service to many people in the region.  The final few days of my mother's life were spent in hospice care and I cannot say enough good things about the work this organization does.  The Gateway PGA Foundation, led by MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, provides opportunities through golf to improve the lives of thousands of kids throughout the entire Gateway PGA Section (for more information on the Gateway PGA Foundation click HERE).

I feel I can talk much more about the work done at Ranken Jordan due to the amount of time I spend at that amazing facility.  While PGA Professionals spend many hours helping a wide variety of charities raise necessary funds, it is not often we see the direct benefit of how those dollars are used.  Every week when I walk through the doors at the building on Dorsett Avenue I see why I happily play 100 holes of golf in one day and encourage other golf professionals in our Section to do the same thing.  "Care beyond the bedside" is not just a phrase tossed around at Ranken Jordan, it is exactly what they do for the kids.  Air hockey, ping pong, Xbox, indoor & outdoor playground equipment, basketball, golf . . . sounds like a typical pediatric hospital, right?  These are just some of the activities you will see the kids engaged in on a daily basis.  At times you will see a child in a wheelchair swing a golf club without assistance for the first time, watch a kid laying on his stomach on a stretcher chip a ball into the bullseye of his target, or maybe you will watch a 13 year old young man take his first steps up to a putting green.  What you will always see are kids laughing, smiling, and playing, while being cared for by a staff who has a level of passion and dedication that is second to none.

2012 Gateway PGA Golf Day Marathon check presentation with Ozzie Smith

This year we were honored to be able to donate $10,500 to Ranken Jordan which brings the 2 year total to just over $21,000.  When you give this sum of money to an organization with a CEO like Lauri Tanner you know that nothing but good things will come from it.  We are very fortunate in St. Louis to have world class medical care like what the kids receive at Ranken Jordan.  As a Section we are also very fortunate to be involved and associated with all of the great charities we support through the PGA Golf Day.  Events like this are a great example of the good things that can be done with and through the game of golf.  And nights like last night, when this game affords me the opportunity to present checks in excess of $10,000 to multiple charities, make me very, very proud to be a PGA Professional.