In 1998 Jerry Rich and longtime friend Don Springer established the Kids Golf Foundation. The Foundation, a non-for-profit organization, is dedicated to bringing the sport of golf into the lives of children and providing them with opportunities for personal growth and career enhancement. The Foundation makes its home at beautiful Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, a facility that Rich built and one that has been host to several prestigious events.
“We’ve really found out over the years that the golf has become secondary,” said Rich. “The true value is in the life lessons.”
The Kids Golf Foundation offers and supports several junior golf programs and events that are designed to introduce children typically between the ages of 5 and 17 to the sport of golf, its fundamentals, rules, history, etiquette, life lessons, and more. The Foundation has touched the lives of over 150,000 children since its inception.
Acting as a customer service center in the state for individuals and organizations wishing to adopt any level of the program, the Foundation and its staff work with local recreation and youth administrators called Site Coordinators throughout the year.
“The Foundation has provided a structure that we use to introduce our kids to the game of golf while providing them with life skills and opportunities to participate in events that have the potential of positively impacting their lives,” said Anderson Smith, Site Coordinator for DuPage AME Golf For Christ League.
Individuals such as physical education teachers, parents, golf enthusiasts, golf professionals and youth recreation professionals can organize programs. Each organization is responsible for identifying one person who will be deemed the Site Coordinator. This individual is the key to the local program. Although the backgrounds of the Site Coordinators vary, the one thing most of them have in common is a passion for youth.
“I’m a non-golfer, and without the Foundation, I would never have established a program in my community,” said Kathryn Durkin, Site Coordinator for the Children’s Educational Institute, Inc.
In addition to the programs offered and supported by the Foundation, each year special events and activities which provide unique opportunities for kids and Site Coordinators are available to local program sites. Such events stress the importance of life skills such as networking, mentoring, and teambuilding, while also providing an educational format for career opportunities, training and more.
Fueled by the positive reactions from Site Coordinators and communities, the Kids Golf Foundation has grown over the years reaching more than 150 different organizations that have adopted one or more levels of the program. The various levels of the program are designed to target a specific age of child or golf ability level. Some of the programs offered by the Foundation include Hook A Kid On Golf, SNAG Golf and SNAG School.
Similar to other youth sport programs such as soccer or baseball, parental and volunteer coaching support is a critical component to the success of a local junior golf program.
“Our Foundation is very popular with non-traditional golf organizations,” said Holly Alcala, Director of the Foundation. “Our programs and resources make it very easy for both avid golfers and non-golfers to implement a junior golf program locally. The Foundation and our staff work with and customize our service to fit each organization or local community.”
Site Coordinators and local programs receive a variety of resources or forms of support from the Foundation. A special login section on the Foundation’s website allows Site Coordinators to download important documents such as order forms, grant applications, scholarship and fundraising information, and much more. The Foundation stays in touch with Coordinators via a monthly newsletter and periodic email blasts. A step by step program manual, training sessions, conference calls, print materials, and more are offered to each site.
Another one of these resources available is a unique and comprehensive package of posters used to help educate, engage, demonstrate, and reinforce the skills being taught during programs. These are a great way to enhance a junior golf program and can be used in an indoor or outdoor setting.
Offered free of charge, these one-of-a-kind posters are not only colorful and eye-catching, but also incorporate letters and numbers to convey important concepts in golf and life in an interesting fashion. For example, an image of a clock is used to illustrate the proper swing in putting and chipping.
Site Coordinators have a wide variety of posters to choose from as the types range from Life Skill and Business Skill Posters that discuss topics such as communication, leadership, etiquette, and more to ones made of dry erase material called Golf Training Boards. Also available is a series of Junior Golf Illustrations that paint a picture through light-hearted and often humorous cartoon scenarios. Others include SNAG Instructional Posters, and new for 2010, Instructional Posters, which focus on the key fundamentals of golf.
“When we run our clinics, the kids can see the posters,” said Gene Petty, Site Coordinator for Peoria Park District. “There are those kids that are visual learners and then those who need to have something in their hands and need to do it to learn it. The Instructional Posters will teach the kids skills such as grip and posture, as it will help them learn the fundamentals of golf.”
In addition to providing a curriculum and resources, grants are also available to support local programs that may not have the financial resources to offer junior golf. The Kids Golf Foundation reviews grants throughout the year and awards to sites based on several factors. Since 1998, over $1,000,000 has been given to organizations in support of junior golf in Illinois.
The success of the Foundation is evident in the variety and number of organizations that host programs or participate in events; these organizations see the value of using golf as a vehicle to better the community and enhance a child’s life. Through the Foundation’s programs and events, participants learn life values such as honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, and patience. Organizations that are involved with the Foundation include park and recreation departments, YMCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy and Girl Scouts, schools, churches, and more. Please visit our website at www.kidsgolffoundation.org or call the Foundation at (630) 466-0913 today to learn more!