Growing the Game / Junior golf clinic teaches kids about the sport

Golfer Holly Anderson, right, helps Hayleigh Jones with her swing during a junior golf clinic in conjunction with the Circle K Junior Championship Hosted by Otter Creek Golf Course in Columbus, Ind., Monday, July 1, 2019. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Bryce Turner had just showed he could hit a golf ball close to 300 yards at Monday’s Junior golf clinic when Otter Creek director of operations and clinic instructor Jon Hoover asked a group of about 35 kids if they had any questions for Turner.

“Do you ever get mad after you hit a shot?” one of the kids asked Turner.

Turner responded that he had. In that regard, he was like just about any other golfer who has ever played the game.

But the key, Hoover explained to the kids, is that when they get upset about a shot, they need to hit the reset button. Forget about it, clear their minds and focus on the next shot.

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Most of the kids at the clinic, which was held in conjunction with this week’s American Junior Golf Association Circle K Junior Championship hosted by Otter Creek, came from the Boys and Girls Club summer youth program.

“We try to make sure that we invite youth from all over the county who are just interested in learning more about golf,” said Melissa Fairbanks, the tournament’s marketing committee chair. “They don’t have to have ever picked up a club or know anything about golf. We just want them to come out and learn more about the healthy habits and some of the values that are surrounding the game of golf as much as how to play.”

Turner, a Columbus North graduate and incoming junior at St. Francis, was one of five current or former college or professional golfers helping out as demonstrators at the clinic. He was joined by North and Ball State grad Michael VanDeventer, who now plays on the West Florida Tour; North grad and incoming Butler junior Spencer Fairbanks, North grad and incoming Purdue-Fort Wayne junior Holly Anderson and Brownstown Central and IU-East grad Lance Hackman.

“Part of the clinic is just watching the older kids who play golf and work on their games every day, but now they have to construct and communicate to some kids that may not even know terminology how to grip a golf club and how to hit a golf ball,” Hoover said. “It’s second nature to those who teach a lot when you’re just playing and practicing, but now you kind of have to rethink when you’re trying to teach somebody else.”

The kids were able to learn a few things, such as the difference between a 6-iron, and 8-iron and a wedge.

“It was awesome,” said Kori Jones, 9. “We learned some of the different types of golf clubs.”

Sebastian Jackson, 11, agreed.

“We just learned how to use the clubs and what the clubs do, and we got to see the celebrities hit the golf ball,” Jackson said.

After the college and pro golfers demonstrated a few shots, each of the kids had a chance to take their turn.

“I thought it was pretty fun that we got to play,” said Phoenix Cooper, 10. “We got to actually do it a couple times.”

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The American Junior Golf Association Circle K Junior Championship hosted by Otter Creek begins today and continues through Thursday. Tee times begin at 7 a.m. all three days, and there will be a morning and an afternoon wave each of the first two days.

Three local competitors are entered. Columbus East incoming junior Kody Reynolds tees off on No. 10 at 7:30 a.m. today, Columbus North incoming junior Nathaly Munnicha tees off at 12:45 p.m. on No. 1 and Jack Hoover, a recent graduate who just moved to Columbus from Colorado, tees off at 1:05 p.m. on No. 10.