Me: "You had never picked up a golf club before coming to Ranken Jordan, correct?
Junior Golfer: "No, I had never played golf."
Me: "So what do you think of it?"
Junior Golfer: "This is fun! I love playing golf and look forward to Wednesdays. I even ask to get the clubs out on other days so I can practice."
Me: "Well you are doing a great job. I think I am going to have to get lessons from you so you can teach me how to hit it as straight as you do!"
Junior Golfer: "I am ready to get started today. Hopefully I can keep playing when I go home."
The four or five of you who regularly read this blog know that I have a tendency to start posts off with quotes from or conversations with the junior golfers we have at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in St. Louis, MO. I like to share what the kids say and think about the junior golf program because more often than not they say it far better than I can! The conversation starting this post occurred recently as we were getting ready to start our weekly junior golf clinic. After almost six years of junior golf clinics, hearing comments like these is not uncommon. However every time we hear it, the feeling is just as special as the first time.
In this particular instance, the junior golfer who let us know how much fun they were having playing golf, was quiet, shy, and reserved when they first started playing. For the first couple of weeks, when the therapist would bring our new junior golfer to the "driving range" at Ranken Jordan, we would notice eyes that were looking down and ever present headphones that kept conversation from being easy. But as we have seen in the past, after a few shots went flying into the target net, and maybe even a couple bouncing off the windows, the eyes started looking up, the headphones were taken off, and the smiles started arriving. To steal from Jimmy Buffett, we did not change latitude, but golf changes attitudes!
These are the type of success stories that we like to see and share. Yes, we are always excited to hear the kids say they are going to continue to play golf when they go home. However the important part of the junior golf program is seeing the physical, mental, emotional, and social improvements in the kids. This is what is possible when children are given an opportunity to learn and do something they likely have never had the chance to do previously. It does not always have to be golf. Golf is simply what I know and how I can provide that opportunity to them. I have said it a million times before and I will continue to say it: I am forever grateful to be able to spend the time I do with the kids and always look forward to "Golfday."