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Young golfers enjoying Junior Golf program

WORTHINGTON -- For 12-year-old Thomas Burns, it's the little things that make golf fun.

"I enjoy getting a par and doing really well on the course," Burns said. "I like staying in the fairway and staying out of the water. Trust me, you don't like it when it happens."

Burns, along with 67 other golfers between the ages of 5 and 15, have golfed at Prairie View Golf Links twice a week since June 14. Today, they will conclude their season with a year-end tournament. The small tournament will include awards and lunch, starting at 11 a.m.

The Junior Golf program is organized by the YMCA and offers an opportunity for young golfers to learn the game.

While at the course, instructors help the kids learn the technique and etiquette of the game.

"We start with the basics -- grip, stance -- and basically etiquette," Bryce Negrete, the clubhouse manager at Prairie View said.

Negrete and the instructors are able to teach while still letting the kids enjoy their time on the course. Burns said that is one of the best parts of Junior Golf.

"It's a fun way to learn the proper techniques, and it's really exciting to be out here and learn how to play golf," Burns said.

Along with fundamentals such as how to walk on the greens, fix divots and repair ball marks, Negrete said they teach the kids other fine points of the game.

"Making sure you have enough tees in your pocket and enough balls, divot tools and all that good stuff, just the basics that are overlooked."

Another point of Junior Golf is to teach the various rules of golf to the young golfers.

Negrete hopes the program will train golfers how to be responsible on the course at a young age.

"When they get older, it will just be second nature to fix divots on the greens or not drive all over the course," Negrete said.

The groups are separated by age, with the older golfers playing a few holes each day. The younger golfers spend their time on the driving range and the putting green.

Burns has played in the Junior Golf program for three years and has graduated from the range to being able to play holes. He said he likes being on the course better.

"I like playing holes because on the driving range, there isn't any water or tricky stuff about it," Burns said. "And the course is a lot more challenging."

Burns' younger brother, Patrick, spends his time on the driving range, but said he likes golf for a different reason.

"It's kind of a fun way to relieve stress, because whacking a ball is fun for me," Patrick said.

For most of the golfers, the program offers an opportunity to be social, while still learning.

"It's nice to get together with friends and have fun," Andy Ruppert said. "You can just have a good time and practically do whatever."

Ruppert, who has been golfing for five years, enjoys hitting the long ball.

"I enjoy driving because I'm best at it," Ruppert said.

Negrete admits it's a challenge keeping track of that many kids in one area.

"The toughest part is keeping them all in order and to try to keep an eye on everybody," Negrete said. "The littlest kids are the most rambunctious."

Even Negrete said he has fun during Junior Golf.

"Hanging out with the kids is enjoyable. I love it," Negrete said. "I love giving them a hard time because they give it right back. It's relaxing out here. There's no pressure on them; they just come out and hit balls and have fun. That's what it's all about; having fun."