Monday’s American Junior Golf Association clinic had one of the biggest turnouts in its five-year history, thanks to one not-so-small detail.
It didn’t rain.
For only the second time in five years, clinic organizers had a dry day to reach the game’s youth. Twenty-five kids showed up for the free clinic in the Otter Creek practice area.
“It’s just getting kids to get a club in their hand, getting them exposed to it and then seeing these good players out here showing them what they can be if they choose to with some practice and hard work,” Greenbelt and Par 3 pro Keith VanDeventer said. “It’s an opportunity to expose them to the game.”
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VanDeventer, who leads The First Tee program in Columbus, and Jeff Smith, the director of instruction at Otter Creek, ran the clinic. Smith led instruction on the range, where several high school and college golfers demonstrated wood and iron shots.
VanDeventer led the teaching in the chipping area, and the kids had a chance to use The First Tee’s SNAG (Starting New At Golf) equipment.
Weston Romine, 13, of Hope, who will be an eighth-grader at St. Peter’s, said he learned “Don’t overswing on your chips, make sure you control your speed and look for the angles on your putts.”
“It’s going to be really helpful later on knowing how to control all your shots,” Romine said.
Following the range and short game sessions, Smith led a session on the putting green.
Annie Watson, 7, who will be a second-grader at Parkside Elementary, said she learned that players need to put speed on their putts to make them go really far. She watched as former Columbus North standouts Michael VanDeventer and Bryce Turner sank 30-foot downhill, twisting putts from the fringe.
“It was really cool,” Watson said. “They made really good shots.”
Several high school and college players helped demonstrate the sessions, including Michael VanDeventer (Ball State) and Turner (St. Francis). They were joined by former North golfers Ian Coffey (St. Francis) and Spencer Fairbanks (Butler), former Columbus East players Austin Proffitt (St. Francis) and Rebecca Smith (LaSalle) and current North golfers Danbi Kim, Drew Smith and Nathaly Munnicha.
Fairbanks, Drew Smith, Kim and Munnicha will play in the AJGA Otter Creek Junior Championship, which is today through Thursday. The field will be cut roughly in half following Wednesday’s second round.
Jeff Smith said it was good to have the high school kids and the kids who have made it to college golf be involved with the community in showing the skills they’ve learned to the younger kids.
“The young kids that were in the audience today got a real good view of who they can become in golf because all of these athletes stood there and talked to them about what they had done, the other sports they played and how they came to be golfers,” he said. “They talked about, ‘You don’t have to give up other sports just to play golf.'”
AJGA Otter Creek Junior Championship
When: Today through Thursday
Where: Otter Creek Golf Course
Local players and tee times:
Danbi Kim, 12:35 p.m. today on No. 1, 7:20 a.m. Wednesday on No. 10
Drew Smith, 1:05 p.m. today on No. 10, 7:50 a.m. Wednesday on No. 1
Nathaly Munnicha, 1:45 p.m. today on No. 1, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday on No. 10
Spencer Fairbanks, 2:05 p.m. today on No. 10, 8:50 a.m. Wednesday on No. 1