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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, August 24, 2014

A Wish Fulfilled

Growing the game of golf is a challenge facing everyone involved in our game around the world.  As I have well documented on this blog one of the ways I am trying to grow the game is by exposing the game to a "non-traditional" audience.  So far I would say it has been reasonably successful.  Many of the 2,000+ kids who have picked up a club for the first time at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital have continued to play after going home.  Several staff members (doctors, nurses, therapists, administrators, etc.) have begun playing or started playing more since the inception of the golf program.  But with this particular program growing the game is not necessarily the focal point.  Helping kids get better through their involvement with a sport is the most important part.

This blog post will be shorter than many of the ones I have written but I wanted to share a quick story about a conversation I had with one of our junior golfers prior to him going home.  One of my favorite stories to tell about the program involves a young man named Dakota.  He was always one of our "regulars" and made it a point to practice as often as possible.  Dakota's initial impression of golf was that it was "stupid and boring."  Rather than retell the entire story of that first meeting, please click HERE to read a past post that details it.

When I was at Ranken Jordan a couple of weeks ago Dakota told me the great news that he would be going home soon!  Later on that morning he pulled me aside and said he needed to ask my a question.  Through golf Dakota and I developed a good friendship so I had no idea what he was going to ask me!  He got a serious look on his face and asked if there was anyway I could get him a golf club to take home with him.  I told him I would do my best to find something for him to take home.  Fast forward a week and it was time for Dakota to go home.  However I had to give him the bad news that he wouldn't have a golf club to take home.  Instead he would have a brand new full set of U.S. Kids golf clubs!

This is just one of many examples of how important golf has become to many of the kids at Ranken Jordan.  There are times like this when the growth of the game impact is easily quantifiable.  However what is far more important to me is seeing the improvement in the lives of these kids because they have had the opportunity to pick up a golf club.  The smile Dakota had on his face when he saw his new golf clubs is something I will never forget.  Have fun with them, Dakota, and don't break any windows!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kids Say the Darndest Things

According to Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby, "kids say the darndest things."  Spend enough time around kids and it is anybody's guess what you may hear.  Many times the comments they make will have everybody around them laughing uncontrollably.  Other times the sweetness and sincerity in their words can bring tears to your eyes.  And occasionally you will hear them say something that brings a huge smile to your face, leaves you speechless, and provides instant validation for what you are doing.

Over the 3 1/2 years we have been conducting junior golf clinics at Ranken Jordan we have had over 2,000 kids "say some of the darndest things."  One of these instances occurred recently with a new junior golfer.  As is often the case, one of the first things that happened after this young man came to Ranken Jordan was his introduction to the game of golf.  Like many of the kids this was the first time he had ever held a golf club.  Due to the walker he currently uses the length of his backswing was limited.  That did not stop him from boldly stating that "I am going to hit it farther than my daddy!"  We went to work on his swing and quickly had him making consistent contact.  His shots started flying higher, straighter, and farther.  The smile on his face continued to grow bigger with each good shot he hit.  Soon, though, fatigue started to set in and he decided to call it a day.  Before leaving to go back inside he assured me he would practice and be back next week to learn more!

Fast forward a week and "Golf Day" at Ranken Jordan arrived.  True to his word, he was back and I quickly saw that he had been practicing.  The huge smile was still there and his swing was noticeably improved.  We hit shots for a while working on some minor mechanical issues here and there.  When he got tired this week he decided he wanted to learn to putt instead of stopping for the day.  He walked over to a putting green and started rolling a few putts.  With only a couple small changes to his stroke he began putting much better.  A few short minutes later and he made 3 putts in a row!  As soon as the third putt fell into the hole he raised both arms in the air and yelled "I LOVE GOLF" loud enough for everybody in a 5 mile radius to hear him!!  Hearing that left me completely speechless and with an ear-to-ear smile.

Seeing the pure joy and excitement on his face and hearing the same in his voice gave me yet another reminder of why I do what I do at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.  Teaching these kids how they can play golf is truly a privilege and something I look forward to every week.  When we get the reaction described in the story above it quickly illustrates how important golf is to these kids and makes me want to do even more for them.  Reactions like this cannot happen often enough.  The mother of one of our junior golfers once commented that our junior golf program "is magic."  From my point of view the truly magical part is seeing what golf can do for these great kids.  While our new junior golfer keeps yelling "I LOVE GOLF" I'll keep asking "is it Golf Day yet?"

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Kids around the United States look forward to summer.  For many of them it means no school, playing all day with friends, family vacations, or summer camps.  But for the kids who have to spend significant portions (or all) of summer in a hospital, summer camp is typically far from their mind.  However, if you happen to be one of the kids at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, you will get your summer camp!

This past week was the second of the week-long summer camps orchestrated by Janine Roe, Community Programs Director at Ranken Jordan.  Each year there is a wide variety of activities and since 2011 golf has been included as one of those activities.  At the camps you will see inpatients, outpatients, day treatment patients, and kids from the community.  All of the activities in the camps encourage interaction between all of the kids.  Nowhere is this more evident than when the kids make their way outside for golf.

On any given weekend morning, spend a little bit of time on any driving range at any golf course in the country, and you will see how inclusive the game of golf can be.  Men, women, and children of all ages, heights, body types, and skill levels are hitting range balls to loosen up before their rounds.  Many foursomes will feature a wide range of scores after the cards have been tallied at the completion of play.  Yet regardless of score, skill level, or age, everyone has the opportunity to play together and compete against each other.

The same situation occurs at Ranken Jordan every year during camp.  Anyone who is there can look down the line of kids hitting golf balls and see kids in wheelchairs, others using walkers, some wearing braces, and several who are completely healthy.  None of this stops any of the kids from grabbing a club and swinging away!  Our group of PGA Professionals and volunteers work with each of the kids and get them hitting the ball as good as possible with the limited time we have to help them.

The camp weeks are some of my favorite times at Ranken Jordan.  These weeks show how inclusive golf can be if given the opportunity.  Social interaction with their peers is one of the many benefits kids receive from being involved in a sport.  These special weeks at Ranken Jordan show that all kids should have the opportunity to learn how to play golf if they choose to.  I have witnessed kids playing and interacting with other kids they may never have even looked at . . . and at the end of the clinic all of them talk about how much fun they had.  Our golf program allows all kids to simply be kids while playing a game.  I sincerely hope that one day we will see similar opportunities and possibilities for kids around the country.