Beginning next year, elementary schools in Illinois will have something exciting to offer students who play golf. The first state championship for elementary school students will be held on Saturday, September 10, 2011. St. Andrew’s Golf and Country Club in West Chicago, Illinois will play host to this one day event which will be open to students in 5th through 8th grades whose schools are members of the Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA). Separate championships will be offered per gender, with member schools allowed to enter up to five girls and five boys in the tournament.
The IESA conducts 26 separate boys’ and girls’ state athletic tournaments for its member schools. Founded in 1929, the association has over 700 member schools and is still growing. Golf will now be added to that championship lineup beginning in next year. “Expanding the activities we offer to include a golf championship increases the number of students who participate in IESA activities,” said Steve Endsley, Executive Director. “Golf is an activity that provides a tremendous amount of learning opportunities and education while participating. It teaches ethics, sportsmanship, and self-control.”
The Kids Golf Foundation, one of the largest junior golf associations in the state, is part of the Planning Committee for the championship. The partnership between the Foundation and the IESA is extremely valuable since these organizations have similar beliefs and goals for their youth. Similar to the IESA, the Foundation believes that sport reinforces life lessons and emphasizes this throughout their programs and events.
“Offering a championship for elementary schools can only aid in the development and future of golf in our state,” said Holly Alcala, Director of the Foundation. “We are pleased to be a part of the Planning Committee and look forward to helping develop and promote the championship to our program sites.”
Since 2001, the Foundation has been offering indoor and outdoor junior golf programs around the state to youth organizations that are in need of a structured curriculum. Last year, over fifty percent of the organizations that worked with the Foundation were elementary schools.
“We became involved in our first elementary school in 2001,” said Alcala. “Offering a sport like golf may seem challenging in a physical education or after school setting, however with our SNAG School Program and the equipment, resources and training that we offer, we make it as easy as possible.” In the past decade, the Foundation has witnessed golf’s popularity rise in youth organizations.
Schools in Chicago, Wheaton, DeKalb, Peoria and other communities have benefitted from the efforts and expertise of the Foundation. “Through the SNAG Program, our school had the ability to introduce a sport that the kids never had the opportunity to experience,” said Kevin McGowan, physical education teacher for New Sullivan Elementary School. “Being able to play golf reinforces their critical thinking skills.”
Thanks in part to the efforts made by the Foundation, the IESA and other state, regional, and national organizations, golf clubs are getting into the hands of our children. The fundamentals, life lessons and healthy benefits of the sport are being taught at any early age and hopefully leaving a lasting imprint. With the creation of the state championship, children who play golf will now have an interscholastic competition to look forward to every year.
Schools that are interested in the championship must be members of the IESA. Current member schools are encouraged to begin identifying students who may be interested in the championship and register those in the spring of 2011. Institutions that are not members, but who have children that would like to participate, must take the necessary steps to become a member school. For more information, visit the Foundation’s website at www.kidsgolffoundation.org or www.iesa.org for updates, registration information, and information on the championship.