Golf takes focus.
Any instructor will say that, but sometimes kids lack it. The Groves AAU Junior Golf Club not only helps kids focus on the sport but also teaches the game, too.
"It's really to introduce juniors to golf," said Hal Yost, co-director of the club and AAU national golf chair. "We also help provide equipment if they need clubs. We're dedicated to encouraging youth to play golf."
The club has two eight-week programs that meet either Tuesdays or Fridays. Coached by Yost, Groves course pro Jan Johnson, and instructors Laura Blake and Mike Sanderson, the club teaches all aspects of golf, including the rules, scorekeeping, etiquette, swing techniques, even life skills for on and off the course. They also play on various courses and tournaments, including the 14 and under national championship this month in Kingsport, Tenn., and the 18 and under national championship in Birmingham, Ala., in August.
"AAU golf is growing tremendously more than what it used to," Yost said. "There's more of a program offered than there used to be. When we play, we make it competitive, and we give them awards and stuff so they feel they're getting recognition. It's all about making the game enjoyable. That way, they play it and stick with it."
Johnson, an LPGA Master Teaching Professional, brings video to the instruction. To help players improve mechanics, she tapes their swings and reviews the video with them. Yost also incorporates a launch zelocity monitor, which detects swing speed, ball velocity and trajectory, and shows the side impact and the power transfer.
"The majority of kids are visual learners," Johnson said. "They learn by just watching. I like for them to see themselves. Usually, you'll see a vast improvement."
At the Groves, Yost, Johnson and company work with the kids on the range and the practice green, then take them out to play a round of three holes. There, they teach them how to follow the rules and make sure they don't cheat on scoring.
"Everything here has been really helpful to my golf game,' said Rand Willette, 13. "It's cool to show you the little adjustments you can do to fix your golf game. When (Johnson) puts it in slow motion, you can really see everything and it's so interesting. It kind of makes me feel like a pro."
Parents tout the instructors' knowledge. For example, Rob Kress, who routinely golfs, brought his 7-year-old son Spencer to the club because Spencer wanted to play with him on the weekends. Then his wife and his 6-year-old daughter Olivia decided they wanted to play, too.
Not a bad foursome, in Kress' mind.
"Before I knew it, the whole family was into (golf)," Kress said while watching Spencer tee off at the range. "The education they are getting from these instructors, I think that we got very, very lucky with the knowledge they have access to. Every time they speak, both my kids listen to them. Usually, kids will want to run around with friends, but they concentrate on hitting balls here."
Johnson has been teaching kids golf for years, and if kids aren't learning to play with their parents, then they're doing it for themselves.
Even if they don't realize it, they're learning focus and gaining confidence.
"I think that a lot of kids do it because they can, individually, and build confidence," Johnson said. "They get some instruction and work on it themselves, and they don't feel like a whole team is relying on them. I notice a lot of kids get much better focusing on things once they get steered towards golf."
Community Sports Editor Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 544-1771.