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Opinion
East County Tuesday, Jul. 2, 2019 1 month ago

Lakewood Ranch Golf Summer Camps score with U.S. Kids Golf Curriculum and Awards Program

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Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

If Bryan McManis, the director of golf at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, needs proof his new summer golf camp program is working, he just needs to take a trip to the pool.

McManis is the first to admit that parents who have a future Tiger Woods or Arnold Palmer on their hands, aren't looking for instruction in a group setting.

The camp is intended to be a fun experience for kids while they are out of school, and by the way, they learn a great game in the process.

McManis had been successful, too, in providing that atmosphere in his previous Lakewood Ranch Golf Summer Camps. But the highlight of each week always seemed to be the twice weekly trips to the pool.

Although he is, after all, a golf instructor, McManis realized it made sense. A certain percentage of the kids, ages 6 through 15, needed what he terms "babysitters" over golf instructors.

Then he looked into the U.S, Kids Golf Curriculum and Awards Program, which offered a kid-friendly curriculum booklet with levels and a pin awards program.

But could little, round pins make a difference?

You betcha.

This year's camp followed a different format in that each discipline was presented to the campers over a five-minute period, and then they would spend the next 35 minutes practicing it. Meanwhile, McManis' staff members would work with them, and at the same time assess if they had mastered the task.

When the campers became proficient in each of five tasks — knowledge, around the green, full swing, putting and scoring — they would receive a pin. If they earned all five pins, they would receive a much bigger masters pin.

Each golfer also was assigned a level — five in all— that classified them from beginners to advanced. Level 1 campers would wear a Level 2 an orange hat, and so on. If they didn't earn a pin, they didn't get one.

This was a slap in the face to the theory that all kids want a trophy, whether they earn one or not. Sure, the campers wanted the pin, and the higher level hat, but they wanted to earn it.

And McManis found that everyone wanted to earn it.

"We turned the kids who needed babysitters into kids who are interested," he said.

All doubts were erased when he starting taking the campers to the pool. They started asking the instructors if they could get back to the course so they could work on earning their pins.

"Our camps had grown every year, but we were trying to take it to a higher level," McManis said. "One kid's mother told me she couldn't get him out of bed during the school year, but he is ready every morning to go to this camp."

Lakewood Ranch's Chris Kochanowicz told McManis his three children, Owen, Leo and Mia, had attended the camp the previous year but never really talked much about it at home. This year, they are talking about how they can get to the next level and what they need to work on.

Kochanowicz said it was a perfect blend of golf instruction and fun for his novice golfers.

Even though they were chasing goals, they didn't get down if they failed to achieve them.

"Kids aren't as hard on themselves as adults," McManis said. "The first time kids hit a ball in the air, they are dancing around."

McManis found that other kids had their own reasons for wanting to earn pins.

"We had our first pin ceremony and this one kid's dad was watching. He was a veteran and a huge guy. After the little kid got his pin, he ran to his dad and gave him a big hug. He had seen his dad in his uniform with all his medals."

The camp draws 40 kids a week and about 350 for the summer. Information can be found by calling 907-4710. McManis would like to see it eventually grow into a year-round camp.

It's all good news for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, which started a move a couple of years ago to make more kids and families programming available at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. 

Meanwhile, SMR was hoping the camp would be instrumental in introducing golf to a new generation.  Laura Cole a senior vice president with SMR's Lakewood Ranch Communities, said when she tells people that Lakewood Ranch has been successful bundling golf and new communities, they can't believe it. SMR hopes McManis can help continue that trend.

So everyone out of the pool.

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