Endorsing golf as a worthwhile investment in one’s time and money has become as much a challenge as the game itself.
It’s one Amber Pasel takes seriously.
Pasel, who is in her fourth summer as head golf professional at Hickory Stick Golf Club, feels the responsibility to help grow the sport as best she can.
As is the case with many courses, Hickory Stick offers junior leagues and events targeted toward men, women and senior players during the summer.
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“There are so many different programs out there right now that courses can latch onto,” said Mike David, the Indiana Golf Office Executive Director. “I wouldn’t imagine there aren’t too many courses that are doing nothing to encourage player development.
“The key is to do something to get more players out there.”
Hickory Stick is currently hosting the second of its three junior camps this summer for girls and boys ages 5 to 14.
Beginners practice from 9 to 10:30 a.m. during each of the five-day camps, while advanced players attend from 1 to 2:30 p.m.
At The Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Ted Bishop, the course’s general manager and director of golf, also is enjoying success promoting golf to area youth.
The Junior Legends program is a six-week session presently combining instruction with team play for 55 girls and boys players ages 6 to 13.
This is the program’s fourth summer, the participation gradually rising from eight kids signed up the first year, 22 the second and 50 a year ago.
Players are divided into four teams, each wearing a jersey and hat of that team’s color (gray, blue, black or red). Competition rounds take place on Sundays in a scramble format, which also tends to bring an estimated 85 to 100 parents or grandparents to the course to watch.
Each player has his or her own number on the back.
“It’s a fun format,” Bishop said. “It’s a little competitive, but not cutthroat. And the older kids take on the role of mentor, and the younger kids really take to it. Nobody has to sit. Everyone’s part of the match.
“Obviously, the retention with this program is incredible.”
Pasel said the process of promoting golf to Johnson County’s elementary- and middle-school aged students begins months before the camps begin each June.
“We try to promote it early. We put it on our website in January, we put some flyers in some paper slots and get the word out to (high school) coaches to help build their programs,” Pasel said. “We tend to see about 100 kids go through every year. That’s the goal.
“These kids are the future of golf. If we can get kids interested; there are so many activities to do right now. And a round of golf for four hours is tough for a kid. It’s a little slower paced than maybe some other sports.
“You’re not tackling someone or sprinting. So, yeah, it is a challenge.”
Other goings on at Hickory Stick include the Thursday night men’s league, a morning men’s choose-up geared primarily toward seniors and a newly formed couples’ league.
Lacking a practice range has impacted Valle Vista’s business in terms of golf instruction. However, Brandon Bezy, who has been head professional since 2010, attempts to make his course unique in other ways.
“We’re always trying to get people here. We’ve cut the rough a little lower, and we have more forward tees than what we ever had,” Bezy said. “I just try to have a fun atmosphere from the time you pull in the parking lot.
“We greet you at your car with a cart when you pull in, and once in the shop I try to remember everyone’s name. You’ve got to get them to come back.”
In the golf industry, that has become the game within the game.
“I would say there’s some worry there, without a doubt,” David said. “There are more and more distractions pulling people in different directions. I would say it’s an ongoing goal of ours to promote the game of golf and increase play the best we can.”
“I wouldn’t imagine there aren’t too many courses that are doing nothing to encourage player development. The key is to do something to get more players out there.” – Mike David, Indiana Golf Office Executive Director
“These kids are the future of golf. It’s getting kids interested; there are so many activities to do right now. You’re not tackling someone or sprinting. So, yeah, it is a challenge.” – Amber Pasel, head golf professional at Hickory Stick Golf Club