Eleven-year-old Clarence Russell celebrates his putt on the practice green during the Hook-a-Kid on Golf summer program at Sleepy Hole Golf Course this past week.
Eleven-year-old Clarence Russell celebrates his putt on the practice green during the Hook-a-Kid on Golf summer program at Sleepy Hole Golf Course this past week.

Program hooks kids on golf

Published 10:33pm Friday, July 19, 2013

For Rob Ramos of Suffolk’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Hook-a-Kid-on-Golf summer program is a great way to connect youth who might never consider a day on the links with a sport they could come to love.

The week-long program for boys and girls ages 7-15 finished its third year at Sleepy Hole Golf Course on Friday.

Katie Murphy, the Ladies Professional Golf Association head gold pro at Sleepy Hole, structured and led the event, with assistance from Ramos and volunteer Keith Cooper.

The kids went to the driving range to work on their long game and spent time at the practice green working on putting and chipping.

But what made this year unique was how much the kids were able to get onto the actual golf course and compete.

“I think that really is an eye-opener for the kids, so they really get to see what golf is all about,” Ramos said.

Murphy was grateful the course was not too busy, allowing the kids to split up into three teams and play four holes of golf on four different days.

“I know they enjoyed that aspect of it, as opposed to being on the driving range all week,” Murphy said.

“We went over rules and etiquette about the game,” 13-year-old Matt Culbert said.

The 10 youth involved in the camp had the opportunity to put those things into practice during their time on the course.

Though Culbert has four years of experience, he said, “I’ve never played this golf course before. It was a great experience.”

Fourteen-year-old Olivia Eastman said she learned “how the game actually goes, how to play the real game of golf.”

Ramos said half the kids were returners from last year.

Dr. Andrea Wilkins had high praise for the event, bringing her son, Wesley, who was participating for the second year.

“I’d recommend it to any kid within the age range,” she said.

The program’s goal is to get youth excited about golf, and Wilkins said Wesley “definitely has an interest in it now, for sure.”

Some of the participants took away some basic principles of good play.

“Always look down and when you hit, don’t move your feet,” Wesley Wilkins said.

Ten-year-old Elizabeth Culbert noticed improvement in her stroke, and Daulton Manning, 12, addressed an issue with his ability to direct the ball.

“It used to go right all the time, but I fixed that,” he said.

But Murphy made a point to teach more than just basic golf skills.

“Golf is a game of integrity,” she said, alluding to players’ keeping their own scores and making sure to follow the rules while on the course. She was able to touch on important values that the kids could apply to their lives.

For Murphy, the joy of leading the program comes with the chance “to be around kids of all ages.”

Rather than being around an unbroken line of seasoned pros, she said, she relishes seeing players swing for the first time and the looks of excitement in their eyes.

The kids signing up on the Tee Beginner Level received golf necessities, including their own set of clubs, a bag, hat and a handbook. Those who had come previously paid a reduced fee for the Green Advanced Level and received a travel bag, hat, shirt, handbook, golf towel, a couple of sets of balls and a tee pack.

“By the end of the week, most all the kids have the basic fundamentals, and they just have to go out and practice it on their own,” Murphy said.

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