MACRD junior golf program gets out of the heat and into the pool
With a heatwave gripping the county, local coach Johnny Wilson took it upon himself to turn golf into an indoor sport.
Rather than force his youth campers to bake in triple-digit temperatures at Desert Peaks Golf Club, Wilson moved the group's latest practices to the Madras Aquatic Center — a somewhat unusual venue for golf, to be sure.
"Looking at the 10-day forecast and seeing that it was going to be triple-digits-plus all week, I didn't have any desire to bring the kids out into that type of stuff," explained Wilson.
In addition to coaching the Madras High School boys golf team, Wilson runs the MAC Recreation District junior golf program. The summer camp has been holding its classes twice a week, with a younger age group showing up on Mondays and an all-ages group practicing on Tuesdays. In total, the two groups consist of about 35 to 40 kids from around the district.
This past Monday, July 25, roughly 20 golfers showed up for the 5-to-8-year-old group session. To facilitate the unconventional practice, Wilson set up a floating green — a rectangular mat covered in green turf, with a flag planted in a hole, just like you would see on a regular golf course — at one end of the MAC's leisure pool. On the other side, a set of tiny clubs, two small teeing grounds and few dozen foam golf balls were placed at the edge of the pool.
Let the fun commence.
For a few minutes at a time, two kids would take turns going for an elusive hole-in-one. Meanwhile, the others swam and played in the pool. When the balls ran out, the golfers switched to gofers, corralling bright yellow balls from all corners of the aquatic center. Then, it was another pair's turn.
For Wilson, it was a great chance to finally use a piece of equipment that hasn't been taken out too often.
"We bought (the floating green) with the idea that we would be able to host junior golf stuff and maybe even community events," said Wilson. After they ordered the green, the pandemic hit — putting the supplies on back order. "The only time we've ever used it so far was one time during high school season when it was sideways raining and about 30 degrees."
"I wasn't sure these younger kids would love it," Wilson admitted, "but it looks like they are just as into it."
Perhaps more a pool party than a proper practice, it was a good way to give the kids a summer break while still providing repetitions that will help them improve their golf games.
"It's fun, they get to cool down and it's reps," noted Wilson. "It's a chance to get a club in your hands and do something different. This is something that you can do that's purely for fun and entertainment. Nothing to worry about, no one's keeping score. Just hitting balls."
The season will go on for two more weeks — and once the heat finally dies down, they'll be able to go back to the golf course.
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