In the eight years I have had the honor to call myself a Class A PGA Golf Professional, I have come to realize just how special being a member of the organization can be. It is the 28,000 men and women who make this organization great. In 2016 the PGA of America is celebrating it’s centennial, upon being started in 1916 by Rodman Wanamaker. It is a special year for us as golf professionals, and a time to reflect upon achievements, while still looking forward to the future.
In my time as a PGA Professional I have been blessed to work at some of the greatest facilities in the country, some of which include Cape Cod National, Oakland Hills Country Club, and recently taking my first Head Professional job here in Ashland, WI at Chequamegon Bay Golf Club. Our number one goal as a golf professional is simple: “to grow the game of golf”. This may be our number one goal, but speaking from experience golf can mean so much more.
I’ve personally been fortunate to teach many golfers both young and old this great game. A few stick with me more than others. Most recently I was fortunate enough to teach the game to an under privileged young woman in Minneapolis. She had nothing growing up. I would allow her to come to my golf clinic every Saturday as she had great potential. I’m proud to say that I started with her when she was in ninth grade, and would barely speak. Last year I received a letter from her mother thanking me for the fact her daughter received a scholarship to play college golf. The letter went on to say that golf changed her daughter’s whole life around. It got her out of drugs, got her to keep her grades up, and now is paying for her school. Needless to say that letter touched my heart.
That is just one personal example how golf changed a life around, but in talking with an old colleague, I heard about another golf professional’s experience on how golf worked as a healing tool. I’d like to share his story below. This story is about Kevin, a PGA Professional in Michigan who created a golf clinic at a local Pediatric Hospital; and AJ, a student who came to Kevin in a wheelchair.
Kevin greeted A.J. with the traditional questions a PGA Professional asks a new junior golfer. Had he played before? What goals did he have? What did he expect from golf? Did he want to play when he left the hospital, and did he want to one-day play golf with friends and family? Basically, Kevin was breaking the ice with the young man and getting a feel for A.J.’s expectations.
A.J.’s response caught Kevin by surprise. “His response was, ‘I want to learn to walk again, that’s what I want from golf,” recalls Kevin. “I didn’t know how to respond to that, but one of the therapists was nodding her head ‘Yes,’ so I said, ‘OK, you got it.’
“A.J. worked hard in therapy and always looked forward to Golf Day,” said Kevin. “After he had been in the hospital for seven weeks, he came into golf one day with several family members and more therapists than normal. We all watched as A.J. got out of his wheelchair and the therapists helped him get in a stander. He walked over to the practice putting green in one of the therapy gyms, rolled in a few putts – more than I could have made – and then walked back to his wheelchair. Nobody there had dry eyes.”
There have been buckets of balls and buckets of joyful tears associated with Kevin’s therapeutic weekly golf sessions with the children at the local Pediatric Hospital. Since that first clinic on May 10, 2011, which welcomed five kids, more than 2,200 youths have been introduced to golf and the fundamentals of swinging a golf club through Kevin’s hospital program. A few skeptics have asked Kevin – and the children at the hospital – how they can possibly hit a golf ball from their hospital bed, from a wheelchair, while utilizing a walker, or while standing with the aid of someone holding a gait belt. What Kevin has learned over the past four-plus years is that golf is a powerful healing tool. He also has learned to never underestimate the indomitable spirit, drive and determination of youth.
-Matthew Lindberg, PGA