By: Shawn O’Brate
LANDER – This week at the Lander Golf Course there were a few new faces swinging the clubs across the driving range and putting around the practice green. Children of all ages took to the greens to learn what goes into a good golf swing, the practice that it takes to master certain clubs, and how to read greens to help lower the number of putts needed to finish off a hole.
Lander golf pro Greg Stimpson and local Lander golf legend, Trey Massey, put on the golf clinic for the children from Monday through Thursday, with two sessions every day to help really help the kids achieve growth in their golf game and keep the sport filled with potential talent.
“Golf grew exponentially during the COVID year,” Stimpson said at the beginning of day three, “it’s kind of our responsibility to keep that going, and if we keep the youth involved and keep them excited….they are going to solidify this industry.”
Massey is currently on the mini tour, trying to make a go at the PGA at any level, but he said it was important to keep roots in Lander, especially at the golf course.
“I wanted to give back to the community for everything they gave to me,” Massey said, “hopefully we can get kids more interested in the sport.”
The former Lander Valley High School graduate was part of one of the many high school state championship teams when he was still a student, but he knows that if it weren’t for a few solid swings as a child he would have never had the spark to keep playing.
“All it takes is for them to hit one good shot and they’re hooked,” Massey explained, “I was hooked and I want them to be too, because then it leads into junior high and high school…if they’re starting earlier they don’t have to learn the basics right when they get there…they’re already ahead of the game.”
Massey was helping Stimpson with the clinic all week, but both have had plenty of teachers themselves that have made them love the game of golf. Teachers like Gary Hopkins, a Lander citizen that has spent over 50 years as a member of the PGA but has been a golf pro around the country, helping teach Massey the sport when he was younger.
“They not only learn golf, they learn the etiquette, they learn everything,” Hopkins said on the driving range, “we’ve always had good golf clinics here and I think that’s one of the reasons the high school has had such good golf teams.”
Both sessions of the Lander Golf clinic helped kids learn the basics every day, from driving to chipping to pitching to putting, with the final day of learning putting it all together from the tee box all the way to the hole as a grand finale for the kids.
That final day, when the kids hit their way all the way down hole 18, the growth of every single child was on display for the two teachers.
“To watch them hit that first good shot and all of the sudden their eyes light up and they think ‘wow I can do this’ it gets us going, and it’s rewarding for them and us,” Stimpson said.
After four days of learning and putting the pieces together on the fairway it was obvious that golf was going to be a new sport that they bring their parents to, and their friends, but there’s more to the sport than just swinging the club and following wherever the ball goes.
“Golf teaches you a lot of life lessons,” Massey said about the sport he loves, “you might hit a bad shot or end up in a bad spot and it’s like life. You might get into some dark spots, but you learn how to get out of those situations. You get out of the rough, you make a good putt, you hit a good shot…you get the highs and the lows on the golf course and I think kids at a young age don’t realize that yet but as they get older they’re going to face situations on the golf course that are similar to life.”
“There’s so many things in this world that try and tear a family apart,” Stimpson continued, “if we can create an environment where we can bring a family together it not only helps relationships but it can help society.”
No matter which students continue to face the beast that is the sport of golf the clinic was a huge success for the Lander Golf Course, and it helped inspire smiles and excitement on the driving range and the putting greens for the children which is all that matters, especially since they are the future of the sport.