Junior golfers learn skills, have fun

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The next clinic Jake Bingham may need to attend after the Yampa River Junior Golf Clinic could involve a dentist's chair.

"I won a lot of candy," the 9-year-old said as he dug into this pocket to count his winnings. "Four; I won four pieces for chipping."

Bingham is one of 96 junior golfers who attended the clinic Monday through today at the Yampa Valley Golf Course.

"The younger age groups get candy for winning a contest," YVGC professional Tom Dockstader said. "The older kids usually want something more tangible, so we give them golf-related prizes."

Numbers for the clinic were up by about 20 this year, and the group that Dockstader credited some of the growth to the 13-and-older girls. The clinic was divided into age groups of 5 through 8, 9 through 12 and 13 and older.

"We have more girls in the older group than guys," said Dockstader, who has interest in the up-and-coming girls because he is the Moffat County High School girls golf coach. "It is good to see growing interest from that group."

Millie Blackstun, 14, was one of the girls in the older age group checking out a new sport.

"I've picked up a club once before," she said. "It's hard because you don't understand why the ball isn't going as far as everybody else's. There is a lot of technique to learn, but they've done a good job teaching."

Cody DeGuelle, a 2003 graduate of MCHS, is one of the 11 instructors. He has helped with the clinic for four years. He also attended as a golfer when he was growing up.

"The hardest thing for them is to have patience," he said. "They come and want to have immediate results, but it doesn't happen right away."

Jordan Wilson, 11, said he saw some improvement in his chipping during the week.

"I haven't golfed a lot, and before I would just swing as hard as I could every time," he said. "I learned that I have to not swing as hard for a good chip."

Bingham established himself as the top chipper in his group. He credited his skill to his new grip.

"You put the hot dog in the bun," he said, showing how the thumb on his top hand fits into the palm on his lower hand on the club. "I learned that."

DeGuelle said the younger golfers are his favorite to coach.

"There's always that 5-year-old who hasn't played before," he said. "I see guys on the high school team who I helped in the clinic when they were little. I can remember my times out here, too."

The clinic kept DeGuelle interested in golf when he was little. That is exactly what Dockstader is hoping for.

"With the youngest players, we want to spark an interest," he said. "When they get exposed to it, sometimes they keep coming back."

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