The weather was perfect on Saturday, May 10, 2014 as 24 local business professionals and youth program participants met for the first time at Rich Harvest Farms for the 6th annual Other Side Of The Green. The mentoring event hosted by the Kids Golf Foundation pairs twelve junior golfers with an adult mentor to enjoy a day of golf at the world-class course. The players arrived early in the morning at Harvest Lodge, Rich Harvest’s indoor practice facility, to start off their day after a going through a nomination and application process leading up to the event.
Site Coordinators, volunteers who run Foundation programs for their community, nominate a handful of youth from their program sites to participate in the event. Any junior golfers between the ages of 11 and 17 that have participated in a Tee-Level Clinic or higher are eligible to be a youth participant in Other Side Of The Green. “Site Coordinators nominate the kids they feel would benefit most from this event, and the kids then fill out an application themselves,” Michala Mika, the Foundation Manager said about the selection process, “The kids are chosen based on their strength of character and personality. Golf ability is not important. Like we always say, it’s the life lessons that are most important in any program or event that the Kids Golf Foundation runs.”
The business professionals are then chosen based on their compatibility with the youth participants, whether it is a similar career path or specific hobbies. “The day is truly about the kids and making sure they are given the opportunity to learn as much as they can from a mentor they can look up to and keep in contact with,” Mika went on to say, “We encourage all of our program participants and business professionals to keep in touch after the event.” Pairings are kept secret until event day when the youth and the adults are announced and shake hands before heading out to the driving range to begin the day.
The players start by warming up for their afternoon 9-hole scramble. Five stations geared towards a specific golfing skill and complementary life skill were set up on the driving range and practice area just outside of Harvest Lodge. The stations helped the golfers get to know each other and also provided a chance for the youth participants to show their new mentors their budding golfing skills. The stations were manned by collegiate golfers from Northern Illinois University and the University of St. Francis who offered advice to both the youth participants and business professionals. After the stations, the collegiate players also joined the groups on the course for the scramble. “It’s great playing with the kids because it reminds you of yourself back in the day, knowing that at one time you were at the same place,” Jake Curwin, a freshman from Northern Illinois University, said about his experience playing in the event, “You learn a lot from them and their head game is so much better than ours. You learn not to be so hard on yourself and to brush off the bad shots.”
Once the players wrapped up the scramble, everyone returned to Harvest Lodge to enjoy a luncheon. The youth participants and business professionals shared their stories from the course with the youth’s family, friends, and Site Coordinators, who came to the event to support their junior golfer. A strong theme of the day was the opportunity to earn scholarships by continuing to play golf throughout high school and into college. Another theme was how the game can reveal a lot about a person’s character off the course as well as on. “Golf teaches you to have a good attitude,” Jeffery Washington II, a youth participant said, “If a player cheats, if they move their ball or something, it also means that they cheat in life.” One parent, Angela Yamamoto, was thrilled to see two of her sons chosen to play in this year’s event. “Golf helps teach you to never give up and to learn from your mistakes,” said Yamamoto on how golf positively impacts her sons’ lives, “A missed shot may turn into a birdie, just like in life. You never quit.”
The female mentoring event, Thinking Outside The Tee Box will run in October this year. The Kids Golf Foundation always encourages interested business professionals to get involved by submitting an application to mentor a youth participant. Todd Hamilton, a business professional from this year’s Other Side Of The Green, encourages other professionals to get involved: “Kids are our next generation of success for our country and to be part of this event is very rewarding.” For more information on the mentoring events or other Kids Golf Foundation programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (630) 466-0913.