Valdosta Daily Times

April 24, 2013

Golfing with the pros

Youth learn game from SGC players

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — At times, they missed the ball completely. At times, they hit the ball and a jubilant expression would appear across their face. And at other times, they just wanted to talk golf and see what the professionals could do.

For the 60 local area youth that participated in Tuesday afternoon’s Junior Clinic hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks and Recreation Authority and Academy Sports and Outdoors, the afternoon of golf with members of this year’s South Georgia Classic was ultimately just a lot of fun.

The local youth learned the fundamentals of golf and spent over an hour with some of the most up-and-coming players on the Web.com Tour, hitting balls down the backside of Kinderlou Forest’s driving range, chipping up onto the practice green and sinking putts like they had just won this week’s tournament.

“It is great. It is always great to give back to golf,” said Tyrone Van Aswegen, a native of South Africa who currently ranks 91st on the Web.com Tour’s money list. “It is good fun. Everyone is out here blowing off some steam and hitting some golf balls.”

The ages of the youth ranged from 7 to 12 years old, and the skill level ranged from beginners to somewhat experienced. But in the end, the whole event was fun for the kids and fun for the 7 to 8 professionals that took time out of their afternoon to volunteer at the event.

“It is a little chaotic but it is awesome,” said Byron Smith, who is currently ranked ninth on the Web.com Tour. “They all kind of have their own skill level and mini goal. Some just want to hit it, some want to hit it far and some just want to get it into the air. But it is good to see. It is good to see excitement for the game of golf.

“That is really the key for these kids, because golf can be such a frustrating game. As soon as a kid checks out, he may never come back. So it is good to see a kid get excited to hit a golf ball.”

If Tuesday’s clinic did anything, it gave the young players and their families in attendance a face to cheer on this weekend during the tournament.

“Hopefully they come out and watch,” said Lee Bedford, who turned pro in 2012 after a successful career at Wake Forest. “I can use as many fans as I can get. So, it is good to teach some of the kids like I was taught when I was a kid. Hopefully they will come out and watch.”

The clinic was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the local kids to learn from a pro who could be on next year’s PGA Tour, said the VLPRA in a release, promoting the event that could turn into an annual occurance.

The seventh annual South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Company officially tees off Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m.