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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!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thankful For . . .

Another Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone.  If you're anything like me you ate too much turkey, fell asleep watching football, woke up for more turkey, and then fell asleep again watching football.  Holidays are always a great opportunity to spend time with family, friends, and those who are important to each of us.  Thanksgiving is also a great time to reflect on the good things we have in our lives and express our gratitude for all those things we are thankful for.

One of the things that I am most thankful for is having the opportunity to go every week to Ranken Jordan and teach the kids how to play golf.  As I have mentioned before in other posts, starting the junior golf program is without a doubt the best thing I have done thus far in my golf career.  Every week I see or hear something that reminds me of the significant positive impact the game of golf is having in the lives of these children.  While it is not necessary, it is always heartwarming to hear positive feedback from the kids and their families.

In the past week there have been two occasions where the impact of golf program has been shared with me.  The first was through a moving letter written by the mother of a patient who was recently discharged.  Her letter clearly expressed her thanks and gratitude to everyone at Ranken Jordan as they cared for her son and provided her with significant help and guidance as well.  Her son is a sports nut and the only sport he can safely play is golf.  Prior to coming to Ranken Jordan he had never touched a golf club.  Because of the few clinics he attended, he told me right before he went home that he wanted to keep playing, practice, and try out for his high school golf team.

And then we had our golf clinic this morning.  As has been happening recently, we had a large group of kids excited to get a golf club in their hands and start swinging.  While working with one young man he made the following comment to me:

"I don't know what I would have done here without golf.  I might have gone crazy!  Before I came to Ranken Jordan I didn't really like golf.  Now that I have learned how to play I love the game and can't wait to keep playing when I go home.  All of this is because of you."

While he worked on his putting we kept talking about a variety of topics, how much better his putting is getting, the Alabama-Auburn game, and how well Adam Scott is playing, among other things.  However I had to leave him for a few minutes and go help some of the other kids who were there this morning . . . partly to make sure they were working on the right things and having fun and partly to make sure he didn't see the tears of joy that I was struggling to hold back.  He almost made me want to say "War Eagle."

Saturday, November 23, 2013


On October 22 of this year, one of my fellow PGA Professionals, Todd Meyer, came to Ranken Jordan to surprise me with the news that I had been selected as the 2013 Gateway PGA Junior Golf Leader.  Needless to say I was in total shock at this very unexpected honor.  Receiving the news from Todd gave the award extra meaning.  Not only is he one of the best teachers in our Section (and around the country in my opinion) but he is also one of the finest gentlemen you will ever meet.

Before I continue on any further I would like to recognize the other very deserving 2013 Gateway PGA Award Winners:

Joe Dodich PGA Professional of the Year:  Gideon Smith
PGA Assistant Professional of the Year:  Brandon Coffey
PGA Teacher of the Year:  Barbara Blanchar
PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award:  Jeffrey Field
PGA Horton Smith Award:  Craig Liddle
President's Plaque/Growth of the Game:  Jon DePriest
PGA Resort Merchandiser of the Year:  Ryan Manselle
PGA Public Merchandiser of the Year:  Ty Zimmerman
PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year:  Mike Tucker
Hard Goods Sales Rep of the Year:  David Kohlberg
Soft Goods Sales Rep of the Year:  Michael Bechert
PGA Player of the Year & Senior Player of the Year:  Bob Gaus
PGA Super Senior Player of the Year:  Steve Heckel
PGA Assistant Player of the Year:  Shane Blankenship
PGA Women's Player of the Year:  Barbara Blanchar

In preparation for our annual awards dinner in early December all of the awards recipients received a questionnaire that needed to be completed.  Our answers help provide information that will be used throughout the evening.  One of the questions asked who has provided the greatest inspiration in our career.  My answer included four people:  my mother and father, Robert Harper, PGA, and Annette Thompson, LPGA.  Each of these people has contributed more to my career as a PGA Professional and who I am as a person than they will ever know.  There is no way I would be where I am today without the influence and guidance they have provided.

However there is another group of people who provide an incredible  amount of inspiration and influence every week.  This group would be the kids at Ranken Jordan who take part in our weekly golf clinics.  It is without hesitation that I will tell anyone that these amazing kids provide continuous influence and inspiration as I strive to continually improve as a PGA Professional, father, son, and human being.  Far too often you hear the comment that something "has put it all into perspective."  I have a tendency to let that type of comment go in one ear and out the other.  What I see on a weekly basis really puts everything into perspective.

Today in our golf clinic we had 10 kids . . . 5 in wheelchairs and 5 ambulatory.  Watch the interaction between the kids, the attitudes of all of them, and spend just a few minutes talking to them.  Do this and your entire thought of what "puts things into perspective" will be changed forever.  As we move closer to our awards dinner all of this year's recipients will see people who helped get us to where we are and we will have the chance to thank them in person.  I am very fortunate that I get to see one group of people who helped me get to where I am, and continues to push me to grow personally and professionally, on a weekly basis.  To those 1,500+ kids and counting and the staff at Ranken Jordan . . . Thank You.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fun, Fun, Fun

Every day in pediatric hospitals across the countries miracles are being performed.  Many of these miracles are thanks to the advances in medical care, treatment, and the science behind both.  Doctors, nurses, and therapists everywhere are taking advantage of these improvements, combining them with advanced education, and helping to save and/or significantly improve the lives of thousands of children who not too long ago would not have survived or thrived.

One thing that seems to be changing slowly but surely throughout the medical world is the understanding that children heal best through play.  Many people may not realize this as their experience with hospitals is restricted to "traditional" hospitals.  In those hospitals they may see signs, as I recently did, that say "Shhh.  Please be quiet; healing in process."  However in the pediatric hospitals that are performing the miraculous recoveries that we hear about more and more often, being quiet is not encouraged.  Children are expected to get out of bed, socialize, play games, and have fun.  It is simply amazing what can be achieved when there is fun involved.  Attitudes are better (for patients and staff), cooperation goes up, and recovery happens faster and more thoroughly.

An area where I have seen the incredible recoveries is through the junior golf program at Ranken Jordan.  In the past I have often talked about watching a 13 year old young man take his first steps up to a putting green or discussed the recovery of a girl who was unable to sit up in her wheelchair for more than a few minutes and now hits balls by herself for over an hour straight.  Recently we have watched a boy drain putt after putt while laying on his stomach in his hospital bed.  Just a few short weeks later that same boy came in smiling and ready for golf . . . in his wheelchair.  Then there is the story of 9 year old Cooper.  Rather than me inadequately tell his story, please take a moment to click on the link below to read the wonderful article written by Al Tays for the Golf Channel's website.

Golf Program a Hit at Ranken Jordan Hospital in St. Louis

At 9 years old Cooper is one of the strongest, most inspirational people I have ever met.  From my vantage point the strength and inspiration is not shown from his 17 hip surgeries.  Every time I see Cooper I am completely in awe of his attitude.  Good luck finding him without a smile on his face.  He is always upbeat and ready for whatever may be put in front of him.  Cooper is mature beyond his years and whenever I have the opportunity to spend some time with him I come away from it wondering which one of us is the adult and which one is the child.  Maybe all of us "adults" need to take the time to learn something from this "child."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Training" Aids Galore

Go to any golf school and you will find a wide array of training aids to help improve your golf game.  You may see devices to keep you on plane, others that work on tempo, computer simulators & swing analyzers, impact bags, molded grips, alignment guides, putting guides, mirrors, etc.  This list is never ending and can go on and on.  Once you leave the practice area you can move to the fitness center and find even more aids that will help improve your "golf specific" muscles, flexibility, and balance.  After you fix your swing on the range and improve your strength, flexibility, and balance in the gym, you can pick up the books that work on the mental side of the game.  Whatever particular facet of the game you feel you need to work on there is some type of training aid there to help you.

Training aids are certainly a valuable tool that every golf professional has undoubtedly utilized at one point or another during a golf lesson.  Used properly they can enhance what almost every golfer gets out of their lesson time.  Despite their importance, I have yet to use any of these things in the most important golf instruction I do every week.  Instead the "training" aids we see during our golf clinics at Ranken Jordan include wheelchairs, hospital beds, casts, pulse-ox machines, ventilators, braces, gait belts, walkers, canes, crutches, and more.  Sometimes our junior golfers need only one or two of these items to allow them to play golf.  Other times they need 3, 4, 5, or more of these all too important "training" aids.  While these may not be traditional "training" aids, they are even more significant to the learning process for these junior golfers.

Without the variety of medical equipment that we see every week many of the kids would not have the opportunity to learn how to play golf.  They are vital not just to their recovery from a variety of medically complex issues, but also to their ability to get out, play, and be a kid.  In talking with others outside the hospital about this junior golf program, many times I hear "these kids can't play golf."  My reply to them is always the same:  "Of course they can!!"  When I see a new kid come to join us for golf and he happens to be in his hospital bed or she is in a wheelchair, my first thought is only "how can we get them playing golf?"  All of us who work week in and week out with the kids essentially ignore the neck braces, casts, wheelchairs, beds, etc.  To us nothing will keep these kids from hitting golf balls or rolling a few putts.

Those folks who work with kids in pediatric hospitals, whether they are medical professionals or volunteers, understand what is important as it relates to sports.  It does not matter how hard they throw a baseball, how many baskets they can make, or how far they can hit a golf ball.  All that matters is that they do it, enjoy it, and want to do it again next time.  Our golf program is all about putting a smile on the faces of the kids and allowing them to have fun.  We show them they can enjoy the game of a lifetime while they are in the hospital and also after they go home.  Golf is helping to improve their lives.  It is providing hope and showing them possibilities they may never have known existed for them.  One day soon thousands of kids every year will see these possibilities and begin learning a game that can take them from surviving to thriving.