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Program director hopes to build a pipeline that could help revive MHS golf teams

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - MACRD Junior Golf Program director Johnny Wilson is hoping to create a pipeline to help revive the golf programs at Madras High School.Johnny Wilson knew he wanted to run the youth golf program in Madras — even before he knew that one already existed.

Now, as director of the MAC Recreation District's Junior Golf Program, Wilson wants to help a new generation of kids fall in love with the links. Most importantly, he wants them to develop that love at their own pace.

"It all came together quickly and suddenly, and so we're still working out the kinks," said Wilson. "We're kind of shooting from the hip and building it as we go."

The transition was not a slapdash changing of the guard, but rather a moment of serendipity for Wilson and the MAC Recreation District, as well as former stewards of the program, Carl and Teresa Lindgren. As the Lindgrens were looking to move on from the program, Wilson placed a call to the MAC asking whether a program like this even existed in Madras.

It did exist, Wilson would soon find, and it needed new leadership. Wilson played golf in high school and college, and has coaching experience from his days with Culver High School's basketball program.

The fit was perfect; Wilson was the man for this job.

"They had a program here, so that was good," said Wilson about stepping into the role of program director. "(Desert Peaks Golf Course) has been really cool about letting us out on the course. They have a bunch of junior sets of clubs that they just let us borrow. They make a deal with the kids that basically says, as long as you're with the program, you can take them home. The deal is when you grow out of them, you're expected to bring them back."

That system helps remove one of the barriers of entry for some kids and families who might be concerned about a hefty price tag for golf lessons and equipment, especially as children might quickly outgrow the clubs.

"The barriers are often financial or just a lack of experience at the course," noted Wilson. "So, we try to provide that. Those are pretty silly barriers to not try golf, but that's the reality."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Scott Slyter, 8, practices his putting skills during the final winter session of the MACRD Junior Golf Program.Wilson also tries to break down the barrier of making the game seem too difficult. His approach to teaching the game is to have players start at short distances and work their way backward until they are playing well on a full-length hole. That takes away the pressure of being good right away.

"If you've got parents who have never been on a golf course," he continued, "they can't feel really comfortable out here taking their kids. It's kind of a stressful environment for a beginner, so we want to break some of that down and let people know it's a family thing.

In addition to helping kids and families learn the game together, Wilson also wants to revitalize the golf program at Madras High School.

"The hope is that someday we get a wave of kids that want to play golf," said Wilson, "and then start a golf team at the high school that can be competitive right away."

Madras High School has not had a golf program since 2013, mainly due to a lack of interest in the sport, but Wilson hopes to change that.

"My kids are growing up, so once I heard there wasn't a golf team, I wondered if I could kind of get involved and start something so that kids are playing golf," said Wilson, who is a teacher at the Redmond Proficiency Academy.

"It's something anybody can do, but you've got to have access to it. That's something we're trying to provide."

The MACRD Junior Golf Program is finished for the winter as light and weather become more of an issue for the sport. Wilson said that the program will start back up again as soon as Desert Peaks opens in the spring.

In the meantime, Wilson is trying to formulate some indoor golfing activities at the Madras Aquatic Center itself. He noted that the MAC has purchased some floating greens and high-density balls that float in the water.

Check for additional details about the program, including registration fees and dates.

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