Junior golf camp brings players closer to the game
Kaleb McKey doesn’t break out the “Happy Gilmore” swing for just anyone, but when it’s to impress the future golfers of Craig, he’ll oblige.
On Wednesday at the Yampa Valley Golf Course, the Moffat County junior-to-be took a few steps back, lined himself up and ran toward the ball while winding up to swing. While still running, he made contact, and the ball flew on a straight line for 260 yards, just like in the movie.
“Wowwww,” said one of the several amazed golfers attending the Yampa River Junior Golf Association camp.
Seventy young golfers took the opportunity this week to be wowed by McKey and other high school golfers as well as Yampa Valley Golf Course professionals Ann Marie Hamilton and Brett Etzler.
“It’s been a great turnout,” Etzler said. “We have all kinds of experience from those who haven’t picked up a club to those who have been here several years.”
Kyle Sorensen had once come to the camp without any golf experience. Now the future high school senior is an instructor at the camp.
“I never thought I’d be able to give golfing advice,” he said. “But here I am, and some of them listen.”
Senior-to-be Chelsey Herod had her own little following during the session for the youngest golfers.
“They like to learn from the same person so they can hear the same things,” she said. “The littlest ones are the easiest to teach because some of the older ones think they already know everything.”
Junior-to-be Amber Nicholson also liked teaching the youngest of the three age groups at the camp.
“They don’t have any expectations,” she said. “They’re happy to hit the ball.”
Hamilton and Etzler said that of the three age groups — 5 to 7, 8 to 10 and 11 to 17 — the middle group is where the more specific teaching starts.
“That’s about (the age) where they start to understand the game,” Hamilton said. “They have the intelligence to know the technical stuff by then.”
If teaching is the first priority for the camp, then keeping it fun is a close second.
“It’s especially important for the younger ones,” Etzler said. “We usually teach less and let them swing away more.”
Five-year-old Jessica Johnson remembered the fun and the lessons she was taught Wednesday.
“She told me to turn my trouble,” Johnson said, pointing to her shirt, which said “Trouble” along the chest.
Herod came up with the saying to help Johnson remember to rotate her body when she swings.
Johnson also said she could hit the golf ball farther than her mom.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said about her experience this week.
A group of four golfers getting ready to leave after the 8 to 10 session had hats on that they had won.
“We got these for a hole-in-one,” seven-year-old Casey Nat-ions said. “I learned that it costs $30,000 just for one green.”Molly Nations, 10, said she learned that her arms should make a Y when she’s holding her club.
Seven-year-old Dylan Kincade’s most memorable lesson was that he is supposed to hold the club like it was a hot dog and his hands were the bun.
“I learned how to hit it far,” he said. “And I learned how to hit it into the hole.”
As the morning progressed from the youngest to the oldest golfers , the noise level didn’t dissipate. It appeared the older golfers were having just as much fun and making just as much noise as the younger ones.
During the final session, Sorensen challenged golfers to a chipping contest where points were assigned to different circles around the hole, the closer the circle was to the hole the more points that were assigned. The golfer to score the highest amount of points with 10 balls won the chance to watch the others do push ups.
Sorensen watched every time as the girls he beat did jumping jacks, crunches or push-ups.
“I’m usually the one being taught,” he said. “This is kinda fun.”
Maybe one day Dylan Kincade and Jessica Johnson will be making the next generation of golfers do push ups. Until then Hamilton and Etzler said they hope that the campers will take advantage of the junior play days held on six Mondays this summer.
“We’ll be out there helping some more during those times,” Etzler said. “It’s great to have a chance to promote the game among the young ones.”
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