Colton Danks has been attending Lakewood Country Club’s annual Junior Golf Camp since he was around 6 years old, and the now 14-year-old doesn’t plan to do things any differently this summer when the three-day golf extravaganza is held again.
For Colton, granddad Jimmy Raynor said, participation has cultivated a strong interest in the game and a love for being on the course, two of the most important reasons Lakewood’s golf pro has continued what has been a tradition for well on 15 years.
“Colton looks forward to it every year,” noted Raynor in a telephone interview Tuesday. “He started going when he was six. The camp gives him a chance to have some fun and learn about the game of golf at the same time. It’s a great thing for the kids, and I, for one, am glad they do it.”
They’ll be doing it again this year, with the Junior Golf Camp slated to be held June 15-17 from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the country club, situated in between Roseboro and Salemburg.
The camp is open to girls and boys ages 3 to 16. For children of members, there is no charge; for all others there is a $100 per child registration fee.
“Everyone is welcome,” noted Curt Pritchard, director of golf operations at Lakewood. “The only difference is that for members’ children there’s no charge, but anyone can participate whether they are a member or not.”
All those interested in participating must call the Lakewood Pro Shop, 525-4424, to sign up.
And Pritchard hopes a lot of youngsters will be interested again this year. In fact, he’s hoping to have a full house mainly because he believes that getting youngsters on the course, club in hand, will help them build a love for the game, one that will last a lifetime.
“It’s simple for me,” Pritchard noted about continuing the camp year after year. “I’m really trying to get more and more younger people involved in the sport, one that seems to be cooling off in terms of younger participation. And, if I can get them out here, let them have a little fun, teach them some of the most important things about the sport, then I believe they will develop a love for the game. And, if they cultivate an interest, many of them will be hooked.”
Getting them hooked, he said, is all about helping youngsters to develop a love for a sport that they can participate in for their entire life “Unlike football, baseball and soccer, there’s not a certain shelf life. You can play the game of golf for 60 or 70 years.”
The camp, he said, offers youngsters a chance to have some great outdoor activity, develop a rapport for their fellow campers and, at the same time learn about a great game, all while having fun doing so.
“I do several things to help make the campers feel at home and at ease. Firstly, I try to break them up into age ranges that allows them to feel comfortable. In other words, there aren’t any five year olds with the teenagers. And, I let them get out on the fairway and hit some balls.”
They’ll learn a thing or two about putting, chipping and driving the ball along the way, but perhaps most importantly they will learn the ins and outs of the game.
“Golf,” Pritchard said, “is a game of integrity and honesty; there are also a lot of mannerisms. These kids will learn a lot about all of those aspects of the game. It will also teach them about the spirit of competitiveness and the honesty of the game. And, to top it off, they’ll learn what’s acceptable on the fairway, how to be respectful, when to talk and when not to. It’s a great camp that teaches things that aren’t just about golf in many ways.”
And every participant, whether they’ve ever held a golf club before or not, will be made to feel at home and comfortable in the golf setting.
“We actually treat every camper like a beginner so they all feel comfortable with what we are doing. For some it’s a refresher, for others it’s an eye opener to a new game. The most important thing, and I can’t stress it enough, is that I want them all to have fun.”
As an added incentive Pritchard utilizes local high school sports heroes to help him out during the camp, the teenagers many of the youngsters look up to and have read about. “That makes it ever more special for them.”
What’s more, after the camp each day, around 11, Pritchard will load up the campers and give them a chance to take a dip in the pool, a cool-down after a morning workout.
“I try my level best to make the Junior Golf Camp fun for all those involved,” Pritchard stressed.
According to Raynor, the golf pro does just that. “Colton loves it. He wants to be there every time they have it.”
And that’s exactly what Pritchard hopes to accomplish. “If I can instill a love of the game in them, and they get hooked, they are going to want to keep playing the game and they will be concerned about going to the next level. That’s important as we develop future golfers.”
Publisher/Editor Sherry Matthews can be reached at 910-249-4612. Follow her on Twitter @sieditor1960 and like the newspaper on Facebook.