The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Recreation Department’s golf program had a successful fall session, with 13 to 20 children attending the lessons every Monday. Golf instructor Stan Overturf, who recently won the Longest Drive competition in the Community Children’s Foundation Golf Classic (making it three years in a row), said, “[The kids] were very cooperative and took to the instruction from all the staff very well.”
Overturf, Randi Honga and golf pros from the Riverview Golf Club in Mesa taught the golf lessons.
Many of the children had never been exposed to golf before, and the instructors watched them learn and improve their skills over the eight-week program. They learned the difference between a putter and a driver, how to grip a golf club, swing techniques, and how to position their feet. The children who did have previous experience playing golf or taking lessons were able to build on their skills.
“You could tell with the advanced children that their technique is getting better each time,” said Overturf. “Some of these children have gone through the program before, and you can tell that they are ready to move to the next level and play a few holes on the golf course.”
Arnold “Zookie” Thomas, 10, is an avid golfer who has been playing golf and participating in Recreation’s golf program the longest time. He is at the lessons every Monday ready to go, and brings his own golf clubs. Overturf said Thomas “has his game down” and will be getting better as time goes on.
“I have been golfing since I was about 6 years old,” said Thomas. “This is my second time to do the lessons with Recreation.” Thomas said he has been working on hitting the ball farther and really enjoys the game. “I also like it because it is free to us.”
“I like playing and working on my swing,” said 11-year-old Alea Davis. She said golf is fun and she always likes coming to the golf course.
During the lessons, the Recreation staff also teach golf etiquette, showing the youth the importance of respecting the game of golf. They learn to be quiet, professional and honest, and to follow directions.
“We don’t let them go out there and mess around. The golf lessons are also about learning about oneself,” Overturf said.
Overturf noted that golf is a humbling game. “It’s not a team sport, it’s an individual sport that allows the kids to challenge themselves and gives them a chance to believe in themselves when they are out on the course.
“The kids know that when they goof up and miss a shot that the only person they can blame is themselves. That teaches accountability,” added Overturf.
The golf program filled up so fast this fall that about six youth were put on a standby list, but the program stayed full to the end.
The upcoming spring session of the golf program will be the last one held at Riverview Golf Club. In May, the club will be torn down to make room for the future home of the new Chicago Cubs spring training facility.