Hooking Kids on Golf is par for the course in Soldotna and Kenai...

The next generation may like playing golf on their virtual video games in the winter, but thanks to the Hook A Kid On Golf program hundreds of youngsters are learning to swing more than their i-pods here on the Kenai Peninsula. Last week both Birch Ridge Golf Course and the Kenai Golf Course graduated the Hook A Kid On Golf class of 2012. The mission of Hook A Kid On Golf is to provide communities with a comprehensive youth golf program that eliminates all the obstacles that discourage youngsters from learning and continuing to play golf while instilling in them an understanding of golf's rules, etiquette and history says Birch Ridge Golf Pro Tom Walsh. "What that means is that the program provides a community with all the tools necessary to provide an organized youth golf program. These tools include providing quality equipment, affordable instruction, a structured system to learn how to play the game on the course and, finally, a format for play that includes competition but stresses fun and learning. Last week we had 24 chosen out of 50 some kids that signed up turn out who were all true rookies meaning they really had no idea what a golf course really was," he explained.

The program now in its eighth year on the Peninsula is strongly supported by the Birch Ridge Golf Association and members like Bob Sizemore and Jane Stein. "Each kid gets a set of golf clubs and bag that they keep at the end of the week along with shirt, hats, golf balls, and a book of rules and etiquette, basically they need to play, learn and enjoy the game of golf. The USGA issued us a grant or scholarship for the first eight golfers and the Golf Association paid for the other sixteen. Every Thursday the Association pays for the green fees so the kids can come and play all summer at no charge to them," added Walsh. Assisting the kids on the course this year were teaching pros Bill Engberg and Nolan Rose, "They really make it fun for everyone," said Walsh.

The idea is to "Grow the game and be sure kids have an opportunity to learn and enjoy this great game. Really it's like an outdoor classroom for learning life lessons, like perseverance, integrity and abiding by rules. We're already looking forward to next year's Hook A Kid on Golf," said Bob Sizemore. Application for next year's Hook A Kid On Golf will be in the spring and for more information about signing up contact Jane Stein at the Birch Ridge Golf Association.