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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, February 15, 2014


Every time you turn on the television to watch any professional golf tournament you will see great shots being struck.  After each of those shots you will typically hear an explanation about why that shot was successful (or in some instances unsuccessful).  The insight provided by Sir Nick Faldo, Johnny Miller, or Jim Nantz is almost always spot on.  One of the things I find amazing when I watch a golf tournament is how the players and broadcasters define success on the golf course.  In almost all of the golf lessons I have given in my career I tell players that one of the keys to scoring well is making your poor shots as good as possible.  For instance, if a bad tee shot typically would put your ball out of play, improve your game to the point of being able to keep that bad tee shot in the rough allowing you to play on without adding a penalty stroke.

There is one area of my golf instruction that we do not necessarily measure success in the same ways as the "everyday" player or the professional golfer that you watch on TV.  I am sure that anyone who has read this blog regularly already knows that the area I am talking about is my time teaching the kids at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  To the kids there, a successful golf shot can be determined by any number of reasons, only a few of which actually involve the game of golf.  In the past few weeks we have seen kids hit successful shots for the following reasons:
  • Better angle of attack into the ball leading to a more consistent trajectory
  • Less movement of the head while putting leading to better contact
  • Being able to sit up in a wheelchair long enough to hit 5 golf shots
  • Physically holding the golf club with 2 hands to hit the ball
  • Standing up to hit the golf ball
  • Having the ability to turn their head to look at the ball
These are only a few of the hundreds of reasons we have seen successful golf shots struck every week during our golf clinics.  Of course it isn't uncommon to see good golf shots being hit on several days of the week . . . the kids love playing golf balls so much that they have the therapists get the clubs out as often as possible!

I understand that everyone who plays this game has a different way of determining how successful or unsuccessful a particular shot is.  This is one of the great things about the game --- anyone can play and enjoy golf regardless of the level of their play.  What Phil Mickelson considers a "bad" shot is likely better than what many golfers consider a "good" shot.  At Ranken Jordan one of the ways we determine the success of a shot is by measuring how much good playing the game is doing for each individual kid.  In a lot of cases getting the ball airborne can be secondary, although you will never see a bigger smile on the face of a kid than the first time they see the ball they just hit sailing through the air!

Our junior golf program is nearing its 3 year anniversary (May 10, 2014 is the date).  During that time we have seen many, many successful shots that would go unnoticed by anyone who was unaware of the entire story.  I have been fortunate to go to the Masters, U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, Bay Hill, etc., and have seen many great shots hit at each tournament.  None of them compare to what I see weekly in a very special pediatric hospital.  This morning I watched a young lady hit a ball all the way across Warner's Corner when only a few short months ago she barely had the strength to sit up in her wheelchair and allow me to help her swing the club.  One of the single greatest shots, and maybe the greatest, I have ever seen happened just before Christmas 2012 when I watched a 13 year old boy get out of his wheelchair, take his first steps ever up to a putting green, and roll a few putts before walking back to his wheelchair.  To this day I still am unable to tell that story with dry eyes!  When I am out playing or practicing on my own game these are the shots I think of as I try to improve my game.  What I see these kids do every week inspires me to be a better player and a better person.  They have hit some miraculous shots and I am very lucky to be a small part of what they accomplish every week!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Golf Helps the Healing Process

The simplified purpose of any pediatric healing facility is to help kids get better and go home to their family and friends.  Now I realize there is a lot more going on in each and every pediatric hospital or rehabilitation center around the country, but the basic goal of every one is to heal children and get them home.  For each and every patient, many procedures, treatments, therapies, and tools are used to accomplish this goal.  Often times there are standard protocols that can be followed and will work with many of the patients.  Then there are those times where health care professionals have to think outside the box to get through to a child and kick-start their healing process.  I have witnessed some of those occasions and can confidently say that golf is a healing tool.

How can I so confidently make a statement like that?  After all, I am a PGA Professional with no formal healthcare education (although I have stayed at Holiday Inn Express).  What grounds do I have to stand up and say that golf is a healing tool?  The basis of my confidence in saying that is I have seen it happen time and time again.  Week in and week out I have watched kids improve their strength, stamina, balance, coordination, motor skills, etc.  Through my work at Ranken Jordan I have had the honor of meeting and talking to people like Zakki Blatt and Kyle Miller who are prime examples of the significant healing role golf can play in the life of a child.  Do yourself a favor and read their Golf Save My Life articles by Max Adler from past Golf Digest magazines.  Click HERE for Zakki's story and HERE for Kyle's story.

Another contributing factor to my confidence in saying golf is a healing tool occurred in one of our recent golf clinics at Ranken Jordan.  During one of our clinics this winter we had a young man, maybe 7 or 8 years old, who started playing golf from his wheelchair.  Over the course of several weeks his therapy progressed to the point where he was standing for short periods of time with the aid of a therapist.  On multiple mornings, he would come to golf for a short time, work on his swing in his wheelchair, and then head to therapy (times overlapped but he always wanted to make some time for golf).  Each morning it never failed, he would leave for therapy only to return a few minutes later with a therapist in tow.  His therapist told us that he wouldn't stand for her but he would happily stand up to hit golf balls!  To go along with the physical benefits he received through playing golf we also saw changes in his interaction with the other kids and his own happiness.  He always had to watch the other kids hit a few shots, talk to them, and had a smile plastered on his face the entire time.

Jeff Middleton, PGA, Zakki Blatt, & Kevin Corn, PGA
For many people golf is simply a way to escape for a short time or unwind after a stressful day.  Other folks, like me, make our living through golf.  To the kids I teach every week golf is improving their lives.  Regardless of how big or small the improvements are, the fact remains that golf is making a difference.  These kids deserve the opportunity to learn the game of a lifetime and enjoy some of the healing benefits it provides.  Why is this so and what can it really do for them?  Contact me and I will gladly provide more information and details.  Simply stated, when the opportunity is presented to the kids it leads to . . . Possibility.