It is not too late to sign up for the free junior golf clinic at Waterville Golf Course. The clinic continues each Tuesday from 8-11 a.m. through June 24.
Young golfers, for ages 6 to 14, are encouraged to have their own clubs, but it is not necessary.
“If a kid comes down that wants to play, we’re not going to turn anyone away,” clinic coordinator Steven Rogers said Tuesday. “It’s free and we provide the balls. It’s not too late. We’re open to taking more kids each week.”
At the conclusion of the clinic, the students are treated to nine holes of golf.
Rogers, 30, works with children in his job as a Bradley County Juvenile Court Youth Services Officer, “and this is just something I like to do. I’ve been playing golf since I was four.”
Gage Brakebill, 13, an eighth grader at Ocoee Middle School, wore a faded T-shirt that still bore the likeness of Pistol Pete of Oklahoma State University swinging a club.
“I like their golf team,” he said. When asked if he was a good golfer, he replied, “I don’t know. People say I am.”
Gage, whose uncle is head greens keeper Jason Bennett, wants to eventually earn a college scholarship and then turn professional.
Rogers grew up learning from the late educator, Cleveland City Councilman and sports legend, Bill “Chief” Robertson, when he conducted the free clinics. Rogers is continuing Robertson’s legacy by trying to help the current generation of kids.
“I know the country club has one and we’re not trying to compete or take anything away from anyone. We just want to provide more options,” he said.
The clinic is set up for junior golfers to rotate between the chipping, driving and putting stations. Rogers said the adults briefly explain how to read greens and which way they break, but the main point is having fun.
“We don’t do anything drastic. We just work on alignment, grip and simple stuff, and just try to teach them to have fun and enjoy it,” he said. “Our main priority at this time is to teach kids to have fun and line their shots up correctly.”
The 23 young golfers who attended the first two days were an equal mix of boys and girls.
Whether Gage is a good golfer or not, he is knowledgeable about the game. The most important thing for young golfers to know is how to have fun on the golf course. But, he continued, golf is about more than just trying to hit a ball into a hole.
“You’ve got to have a strategy,” he said. “You can play it safe (or you can take risks). If there is a water hazard, you can try to drive it over the water or you can just lay it up and use your next shot to get it over the water.”
He explained that challenging a water hazard with one shot instead of two is risky and if it does not work out, the cost could be a one-stroke penalty.
In a sense, Nathan Ross, 36, is an older version of Gage Brakebill. Ross, a probation officer assigned to Bradley Central High School, grew up across the road. His father took him to the course after school and on weekends. He chipped, putted and practiced golf.
“I was raised here. This is just one of those golf courses you can’t forget,” he said. “I stayed out of a lot of trouble because I was on the golf course. It’s a timely sport. It takes a long time to get 18 holes in — I slept real good after 18 holes and my parents really liked that.”
When Juvenile Court Judge Dan Swafford, Court Director Terry Gallaher, Rogers and Cleveland City Manager came up with the idea, Ross jumped at the chance to help the young golfers.
Josh Gann, also with juvenile courts, helped the youngsters with their chipping skills.
Asked if he was a good golfer, he replied, “I am not a good golfer. I’m a pretty good chipper, but overall, I am not a good golfer.”
Gann has fun though and that, he said, is what matters.
Ainsley Oliver follows through with her swing
- Photo2 by David Davis