Junior Camps in its fourth decade of teaching
The gallery was of their own kind, wide-eyed and excited about the shot in front of young Mik Cottingham.
The five-year old ignored the onlookers long enough to hear one last bit of instruction from a teacher a few paces off to his side, before coming through with a swing that advanced the ball at least 30 or so feet.
“Great swing,” said the teacher. “Look at how far it went.”
The expression was one the instructor had echoed nearly every time the club would come in contact with the ball, as the group of junior golfers made their way up the eighth-hole at Sundance Golf Club in Dayton.
The participants were in the midst of their fourth session as members of the 2013 Sundance Junior Golf Camps.
The six-week camp started June 17 and concludes with a nine-hole round accompanied by lunch and an awards presentation July 29.
That final day will included golfers from each of the two Monday morning sessions for golfers ages five-to-12. A separate banquet will take place Aug. 6 for the nine-to-15 year olds in the Tuesday morning 9-hole league.
Together, the groups will represent Sundance in its purest form.
“It is kind of what this place is all about,” said Junior Golf Camp instructor Matthew Geisendorfer-Lindgren. “There is just a more fun atmosphere at Sundance when you’ve got a bunch of kids learning the game. There is a lot of older people that come out and play golf on Monday mornings, and they all love having the kids around too. It is good for the entire environment of the golf course, and the community as well.”
The introductory camp has been held at Sundance since at least 1980, and has experienced the type of turnover that now has alumni sending their children to take part.
Other former participants have gone on to experience successful careers both as high school and college golfers.
Even Geisendorfer-Lindgren, who graduated from Maple Grove High School in 2006, participated as a child.
Fellow instructor Curt Groebner is one of the few to have not gone through the program, but he did spend eight years working in the pro shop before embarking on a career in tax accounting.
After a year away from the camp, both Groebner and Geisendorfer-Lindgren returned this summer to help lead the youngsters.
“I took Monday’s off of at my job to come back out here and teach,” said Groebner. “I really missed it a lot, and I know both Matt and I wanted to come back and give some guidance to the kids that are out there.”
The teaching is split up between five instructors, and focuses on all aspects of the game.
Time is spent on the putting greens, driving range and a few actual holes. It’s also spent on the terminology of golf, and the etiquette the has forever helped shape the game.
“We work on the fundamentals of the game, teaching the kids the etiquette and the life skills that you get from golf, Geisendorfer-Lindgren. “Most importantly though, it is just about having a good time at the golf course.”
The ways to offer the fun aspect have evolved over the years. Recently, the instructors have found that rewards still help spur motivation.
For example, the team of teachers have come up with a mulligan that the kids compete for, and it has fueled plenty of examples as to what it takes to earn that free shot.
“Most of these kids don’t know what it means to be good at golf yet, but they know what it means to win a challenge,” said Groebner. “Probably one of the most revolutionary things we came up with was the mulligan. It looks like a dollar bill, but it just a little piece of paper that represents a mulligan. We hyped it up big time. Now, at this point, the kids get really excited about winning a mulligan. In the end, you re-do a shot, but it buys us another opportunity to get them excited about something. That has been huge.”
This year, there are about 50 boys and girls competing for such rewards.
The fee for the entire camp was $95 per golfer - a nominal amount considering the opportunity it could present.
“If this experience gets them started playing a game they can play for their whole lives, I’d say it is worth it,” Geisendorfer-Lindgren said. “We’ve seen it. A lot of these kids are out more than once a week. They come to the driving range with their parents. They are really taking the instruction and practicing it, which is really rewarding to see.”