Due to the continued support of the community, the Carthage Junior Golf Academy continues to grow every year.

Due to the continued support of the community, the Carthage Junior Golf Academy continues to grow every year.

Once again, the two-week golf program for Carthage youth saw the biggest turnout in its 17 years of existence at the Carthage Municipal Golf Course with more than 400 kids. This week was the final days of the academy, geared toward kids aged 7-13, concluding with the annual Dick Mansfield Golf Tournament on Friday, June 14. This tournament, with additional fundraising, has been able to support the growing numbers of the program, but this year the Carthage Community Foundation awarded the program a $1,750 grant.

“The goal is to get a lot of youth golfing,” said local PGA Pro Mark Peterson. “Obviously they’re enjoying it; they’re telling their friends about it and it just keeps growing every year. With the community’s support along with the Carthage Foundation, the kids that don’t have clubs are able to leave the program with a set, a shirt and more knowledge about the game.”

Carthage High School golf coach Lowell Catron, who has 11 years with the program, instructs the kids with the help of volunteers Rick Payne, Kerry Catron, Justin Sullivan and Webb City High School golf coach Wayne Smith. Also, this year there were 16 volunteers from the Carthage High School boys and girls golf teams. CHS junior Emily Pence is a former academy participant of 10 years; now as a member of the golf team, she encourages the little ones.

“I really enjoyed it as a player – I couldn’t wait,” she said. “It made me want to be on the golf team because this was where I first started playing.”

Not only for Emily, but almost all of the girls on the golf team were involved in the junior golf academy.

“We all know each other from this,” Emily said, gesturing to the group of kids chipping onto the practice green. “It makes us enjoy it more because we’re all practically family. This camp encourages the kids and inspires them to keep practicing … It’s a big mental sport, so it helps with other sports too because it helps you focus, concentrate and keep at it.”

The academy proves to be a positive influence on students from Emily’s age, to Colson Brust, age 7.

“You get to have fun,” Colson said. “(Coach Catron) is cool – he’s really good at golf.”

Kahle Tackett, 6, just started playing golf this summer. How does he like it so far?

“You get to have clubs and hit stuff really hard,” he said with a big smile.

In the second week of the Carthage Junior Golf Academy, kids aged 5-7 were engaged in the Starting New At Golf (SNAG) program. This program started in the public schools throughout Carthage last year as a way to introduce youth to the game. P.E. coaches from across the school district met with Springfield resident Rick Grayson, 2011 PGA National Junior Golf Leader and PGA Teaching Professional at Connie Morris Golf Learning Center at Rivercut.

The school district received a grant, written by Patrick Scott at Arvest Bank, through the Walton Foundation, making SNAG possible for Carthage. The colorful materials for the program will be rotated between the schools in a few weeks, giving each student in P.E. by the end of this school year the chance to learn a game they can play for the rest of their lives.

SNAG provides students the chance to learn golf in indoor and outdoor settings with color-coded materials to help them advance skills in striking the ball. The “golf balls” are low-compression velcro balls that will fly only 40 yards, no matter who strikes it. There are other tools to help coaches keep the game fun and safe at the same time. Grayson said the SNAG program is being implemented throughout the area, and has seen firsthand the positive reaction from his Springfield home.