After making the decision to start a junior golf program at Willow Bend Country Club in Van Wert, Ohio, it didn’t take long for Randy Agler to find what he was looking for.
“I went online to look at some current programs for us to use as a model,” said Agler, the Club’s Pro Shop manager. “After reviewing several options, we decided on the Hook A Kid On Golf program. We liked the detail of the format as well as the availability of supplies, among other strengths.”
Turns out, the kids in the community loved the format, too.
The program was first made accessible to kids through local schools, and after receiving an overwhelming response, Willow Bend Country Club’s first program was offered to 65 kids ranging in age from 8 to 18 years old.
The large turnout, coupled with the enormous success of the program, earned it Hook A Kid On Golf’s New Site of the Year award.
“The feedback we received was outstanding,” Agler said. “The parents would make a point to stop by and tell us how much their kid loved the program. One thing we did was give each junior golfer a play card that entitled their parent to come out to our private club and play with their junior golfer a total of six times free of charge. Our program was over on July 10 and it was nice to see how many of the families took advantage of this free play.”
Agler hopes Hook A Kid On Golf can kickstart interest in the sport so youngsters will continue to tee it up into their high school years.
“We received a lot of good feedback and we are hoping this increases the interest in golf in the long term,” he said. “Our local high school golf teams have a difficult time fielding a complete team and we hope that will not be an issue in the future as we hook more kids on golf.”
The program’s success was aided by outstanding help within the community.
“The program was championed by a husband and wife team, Brad and Kim Doidge, who happen to be golf coaches at separate schools in the community,” Agler said. “However, with that many kids we did need more help and the response from our membership to volunteers on golf days was outstanding.”
Hook A Kid On Golf provides communities with three levels of curriculum and all the tools necessary to accomplish an organized youth golf program.
“At the beginning we had about 50 percent of the golfers who had no previous golf experience, so it was good to see how they first liked the game and secondly, wanted to improve,” Agler said. “I was also impressed with how they helped each other within their groups.”
When Willow Bend’s Hook A Kid On Golf program was completed, participants were treated to a special luncheon in honor of all of their hard work throughout the program.
“We closed the course on the morning of July 10 and had a golf outing and luncheon for the golfers and their parents,” Agler said. “The parent participation was more than we expected since most had to take off work to attend. We also felt this validated the success of the program.”
The future is bright for Willow Bend and golf, with the Club looking to expand the program.
“Being a life-time resident of this community, it was satisfying to see the smiles on so many young peoples’ faces,” Agler said. “Most of those kids would never experience the game of golf if not for programs like these.”