Record number from FFY take part in Junior Golf Clinic

Kids putt nerf balls at targets during Monday’s Junior Golf Clinic at Otter Creek.

Ted Schultz | The Republic

For the past several years, marketing coordinator Melissa Fairbanks has organized a Junior Golf Clinic the day before the beginning of the Circle K Junior Championship at Otter Creek.

This year, Erin Hopkins took over most of the organization for the clinic as her senior project after learning of the opportunity from her coach at Columbus North, Scott Seavers. She saw a record 165 kids from Foundation For Youth cycle through stations for driving, chipping, putting and iron play.

“It’s so fulfilling just seeing kids’ joy in exploring a golf course for the first time,” Hopkins said. “I think that’s really wholesome. It’s a little bit chaotic, but I think all the kids are having fun. It’s been a great experience.”

Local club pros and high school and college golfers served as instructors at the stations.

“It’s fun but it’s hot,” said Charlie Roberts, who will be a third-grader at Schmitt Elementary.

“It’s my first time here, so I’ve never really been golfing,” said Rosalie Dorantes Garcia, who will be a fifth-grader at Taylorsville Elementary. “I’m starting to like golfing. It’s really nice.”

The tournament has raised $569,000 for charitable partners over the past 11 years. Foundation for Youth and ACE Grant Scholarship Program have been the tournament’s two charitable partners since 2017.

“It’s important to Circle K, and it’s important to our committee and the AJGA that we connect with a local charitable partner, and this is a way to do that,” Fairbanks said. “We make a donation, which is very important to their every-day operations, but we also spend one day and do this wonderful clinic and bring kids out and introduce them to the game of golf. Some of these kids have never even seen a golf course, other than on TV. So they actually get to hold clubs. They are taught by professionals and coaches and high school golf students how to play golf.”

This year’s tournament features 78 players and runs from Tuesday through Thursday. Hopkins and her former North teammate, Ava Bunker, who lives in Edinburgh and is an AJGA regular, are the local entries.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Hopkins said. “I’m extremely thankful to Mr. (tournament co-chairman John) Fairbanks for allowing me to have the sponsorship exemption. It’s a great experience to build my game and kind of gain some attention from some college coaches that will be here.”