JOPLIN, Mo. — There’s always been a rich golfing tradition in southwest Missouri. The Joplin Golf Foundation aims to keep it that way with their “Tee It Up” Joplin Area Junior Golf Program. The youth golf program has existed in one form or another for years, and aims to teach kids the basics of the game.
“Behind me we’ve got putting skills going on, a couple of Joplin coaches teaching putting and doing a great job,” Carthage boys and girls golf coach Lowell Catron said. “Up here we have another coach from Carthage and Thomas Jefferson coach doing full swings. Then up on top we’ve got Webb City and Carl Junction coaches working with short game chipping.”
All of the skills are important ones to learn, but there appears to be a few favorites among some of the kids.
“I like hitting long shots and then chipping them onto the green and stuff,” 9-year-old Zoe Williams said. “I think I’m better at chipping, but I’m pretty good at driving too.”
8-year-old Wesley Sawkins agreed.
“The station for like hitting far,” Sawkins said. “You don’t have to worry about hitting like just right. You can hit like far. Like there’s no point you can’t go past.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the program was structured differently than in years past. Participants attend one hour long session each day. Three sessions are held per day to limit the number of kids in each group. Even with the changes, the kids have come, and learned a game they can play for years to come.
“It’s just a unique thing. Golf is just something that you can do. These kids can now do it until they’re 80 years old,” Catron said.
These kids might not become the next Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, or Arnold Palmer. But that’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s about continuing to grow the game and pass it on to the next generation of players. That’s good enough for Catron and the other coaches.
“You know out of a group of 60 kids if we get four or five who love the game and continue on and do great things, that’s great. If they just like the game and want to play, that’s fine too.”
This summer’s program will conclude on Friday with the “Tee It Up” Party at Rangeline Golf Center.