MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many of you may have spent some time out on the golf course this weekend.
Despite our brutal winters here in Minnesota, when it gets warm, we go golfing. In fact, our state is one of the top golfing states in America.
This week for Finding Minnesota, we took a look at a program that’s putting golf clubs in the hands of children.
I spent some time in Plymouth, at a place that’s breaking down the barriers that have traditionally kept some families away from golf.
At age 10, Nathan Borthwick is practicing his swing.
He takes golf lessons at the Eagle Lake Youth Golf Center. And even though he likes his time on the links, like most kids, he enjoys video games, too.
I asked him which he likes most, and he said it was golf.
“Because, I actually get to do it instead of sitting on a computer doing like this … doo, doo, doo, doo, doo. Actually doing something is a lot funner,” he said.
Eagle Lake Youth Golf Center is one of the places where you’ll find kids in the First Tee program.
It was started in 1997 by the World Golf Association.
The goal is to make the sport more accessible to children nationwide, but especially those from groups that are underrepresented in golf.
That’s why First Tee offers scholarships, and not just for children with financial need, but also girls, disabled children, and kids of color.
They call them “golferships.”
Brian Pabst is a golfing instructor at Eagle Creek.
“Those kids can apply each spring. We have about 125 kids on scholarship this summer. They get a pass to play some golf, free rounds, free range balls, they also get one session of golf lessons each summer. It’s a lot of fun. We see the same kids. Some of them would never have the chance, because golf is expensive,” he said.
The program, which is run by the Three Rivers Parks District, is one of several across Minnesota.
Other locations the program is offered are Highland Park Golf Course in St. Paul, the Hiawatha and Wirth golf courses in Minneapolis, and Victory Links in Blaine.
Pabst described the method they use to teach children how to play golf.
“Kids are good mimics. We have 5-year-olds to 17-year-olds in our group. The younger they are we try not to teach them too much. We model and then have them copy. As they get older, we get more into technique. We want them to develop their own little swing,” Pabst said.
Troy Nygaard is the executive director of First Tee at Eagle Lake.
He says the golf instructors also work with these young people in building character and good manners.
“Golf is one of the only sports … where you have to call penalties on yourself, you are your only referee. Teaching the core values like honesty, perseverance and integrity teaches these kids that in golf you have to ref yourself and lead yourself and you have to do that in life also,” Nygaard said.
To request a First Tee scholarship, you have to be between the ages of 8 and 17.
Out at Eagle Lake Youth Golf Center in Plymouth, they are offering all kids 17 and younger a summer pass for $100. With that you can golf as often as you like all summer long.