Kids pick up some golf tips from the pros at United Leasing & Finance’s youth clinic
Lone golf cart on driving range becomes a target
- By Jessica Wray
Peyton Blackard has been playing golf since he was about 2 years old, but for his eighth birthday on Tuesday, he got a special surprise.
Peyton’s mom and dad took him to the youth clinic at Victoria National Golf Club — where he was able to use a professional’s club — and had the chance to show off his own skills to professional golfer Brett Stegmaier.
“I like putting because the greens are kind of fast and kind of slow,” he said. “I really like to play with my family.”
Stegmaier and the other pros leading the youth clinic, Andres Gonzales and Adam Hadwin, are playing in the United Leasing & Finance Championship. Tournament play begins Thursday, with the kids’ clinic and charity event “Stuff A Caddy,” which is a school supply drive, kicking off the main event.
The pros demonstrated for clinic participants long drives and — after some encouragement by the students — target hitting.
A lone cart on the driving range, picking up the stray golf balls, became the elusive target. And amid cheering and shouting, Hadwin was the first to hit the cart. The pros also signed autographs, posed for pictures and answered questions about golf and playing professionally.
Peyton, who is from Fort Branch, Indiana, wants to play professionally someday. He shot a 64 to win the boys 6- and 7-year-old division in the Pepsi Titan Little People’s Championship earlier this month at Quincy, Illinois.
About 180 youths from the Evansville YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club and the Evansville Junior Golf Association participated in Tuesday’s clinic.
Adam Feller, 7, said it was fun to see the professionals compete to see who could hit the cart first. Feller attended the clinic with his father, Mike Feller, who also plays golf.
He said he wanted to teach Adam and his son Ryan Feller, 9, to play golf because “it’s an individual sport they could play for the rest of their lives, and it’s fun.”
“I thought Adam would enjoy the clinic and get a tip or two from some of the professionals,” he said.
Mike Harper, the executive director of the Evansville Junior Golf Association, said this was the second year for his students to attend the youth clinic.
“This is amazing,” Harper said. “This is a learning experience the kids will never forget.”
“Photos provided by Kenneth May Photography”
He said his students range in age from 5 and 6 year olds to high school students.
The clinic, he said, is a great opportunity for young golfers who are interested in the sport and want to learn more.
“They were excited. They got to have a pro work with them,” he said. “There’s not a lot of opportunities for them to do things like this.”
In addition to lunch, the students received caps — which many of the students got signed by one of the three professionals.
Aly Kissel, a head counselor with the YMCA Evansville’s Downtown branch, said they brought their 9- and 10-year-old students to the clinic, which was something different from their daily activities. Kissel’s YMCA student group normally ranges from ages 5 to 10 — but the youth clinic was a chance for the older students to take a field trip.
“They were pretty excited,” she said. “They thought the long drives were really cool.”
Patrick Nichol, the tournament director for the United Leasing & Finance Championship, said youth clinics and other programs for children are a great way to get children interested in the sport.
“That’s the future of our game,” Nichol said. “I mean, we’re all wanting to grow the game of golf. And through the tour programs with First Tee and kids’ clinics that are held at events all over the country on all three tours, this is a way to get young kids interested in golf, let them see professionals and hopefully it will become a lifelong sport for them.”
Nichol said the professionals really enjoy working with the students.
“This is the most kids we’ve ever had at a kids’ clinic. We’ve set a record in ticket sales this year, and we’ve set a record in business sales,” Nichol said. “So we’re all looking forward to a good weekend out here.”
The tournament has a field of 156 golfers this year, with nearly 500 volunteers working the week of events.
“I’m looking forward to having good crowds,” Nichol said, “and for the business community coming out here and enjoying great golf and seeing the stars of tomorrow here today.”
The Web.com Tour Wives, Youth First and the United Leasing & Finance Championship will be sponsoring “Stuff A Caddy,” a charity event to collect school supplies for children in need.
The organizations will be set up in the Newburgh Walmart parking lot from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Wednesday. All items donated will help Youth First provide school supplies and classroom materials. There will be two Cadillac SUVs in the parking lot for those donating to “stuff” with school supplies.
Old National Bank also sponsors another component to the tournament, the Golf Gives Back program.
The program allows charities to sell weekly grounds passes to the golf tournament and keep the money. Grounds passes are $35 and must be bought online for the charities to receive the funds. There are around 110 local and area charities those buying tickets can choose from.
For more information on tickets, go to ulcgolf.com and click on “Golf Gives Back.”
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