When the Aiken Hook A Kid On Golf clinics were first organized eight years ago, organizers weren't looking to produce the next Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods. They were more interested in seeing their students become the next great citizens of South Carolina.
Around 240 kids, ages eight to 14, turned out for five golf clinics and one croquet clinic held at six different Aiken locations: Palmetto Golf Club, Cedar Creek, Woodside Plantation, The Reserve Club, Houndslake Country Club and Green Boundary.
"This is important for the development of the young kids," volunteer Charles Hightower said. "We're teaching them how to interact with others, we're teaching them camaraderie and we're teaching them life skills."
The clinic was started when parents in the Aiken area grew concerned about a lack of affordable golf instruction for their children. At that time, traveling to Augusta or becoming a member of a country club were the only ways to get them into the sport. That's when the Aiken Junior Sports Association, led by president Joe Spencer, joined forces with National Hook A Kid On Golf to provide weekly summer day clinics at minimal or no cost.
"We were really aiming this at kids that wouldn't normally have the chance to experience golf," Spencer said. "We have kids from across the community of all economic backgrounds."
After golf instruction each day, which includes work on the fundamentals of the game, the kids attend a program focusing on topics that range from avoiding tobacco use to seat belt safety. These programs, mixed with a heavy emphasis on golf etiquette, are provided in hopes that the students will leave the clinics heading in a positive direction.
"We want to teach more than just how to swing a golf club," Spencer said. "Since we have a collection of kids here, it's an opportunity to give them some other messages. It may be subliminal, but that's OK as long as they accept it."
Of all the lessons taught by Aiken Hook A Kid On Golf, which won the National Hook A Kid On Golf Site of the Year Award in 2008, the message 8-year-old Megan Musick said she'll remember most is one that will hopefully last a lifetime.
"Don't hit people with the golf club," she said.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.