Stone Hedge’s already full parking lot was bustling with activity as parents dropped their kids off at 8:30 a.m. to youth golf camp last week.
Parents deposited their golfers at the pavilion for temperature checks and hand sanitizer, and scores of experienced duffers walked through the parking lot, smiling at the next generation of athletes.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Scott Miller of Wyalusing before he played a round Wednesday morning. “I wish they had this when I was a kid.”
This year’s camp has tripled in size since last summer, something PGA pro Adam Charles attributes to both good advertising and limited organized sporting activities for school aged athletes.
“We have about 15-20 new golfers here, and about a third of them are girls,” he reported, adding that typically the boy to girl ratio is top-heavy in favor of boys.
He added, “The girls are keeping the boys in place, they are spitfires.”
Charles, joined by PGA professional Paul Roman, Tunkhannock Area High School teacher and assistant golf coach Thurston Sick, Jim Osterhaut and Carl Rish taught the basics of the game to students from Tunkhannock, Lackawanna Trail, Elk Lake, Abington Heights, Valley View, and even some golfers who are not members of PIAA’s District 2. The camp was available to kids six to 18 years old.
The adults rotated their charges through three stations- putting, chipping, and taking full swings at the course’s driving range. They also had games that promote friendly competition, citing the putting game as one of the campers’ favorites.
Another favorite of the campers is easily the lunches. The catering at Stone Hedge provided kid-friendly meals such as chicken tenders and fries, hot dogs with macaroni and cheese, pizza, and the ever popular Taco Tuesday meal.
Charles said, “We have needed to think on the fly, and improvise, as the kids are learning so quickly. The first day, time flew by so fast.”
Most of the golfers this week had their own clubs, but Charles said they had a few extra on hand for campers to borrow. He quickly noted that as soon as a club was claimed by a camper, it was theirs to use for the week so there was not any sharing equipment.
“One player didn’t have clubs on Monday, but has been enjoying camp so much, he showed up today (Wednesday) with his own new set,” beamed Charles.
Damian Howard, a recent Trail grad, was that player.
“This is my first time golfing and I will definitely be back out there,” he said. “I like using the driver on the range and hitting the ball hard.”
Howard, a social being by nature, also said his favorite part of camp was meeting new people and making friends who also enjoy the sport.
In her second year of hitting the links, Addison Ostrowsky tries to have fun every time she is on the course.
“Golf is my favorite sport,” said the 13-year-old from Tunkhannock who aspires to join the Tigers’ golf team in a few years. “I like coming to camp so I can learn how to play like the professionals.”
Stone Hedge general manager Erika Edwards was pleased with the turnout.
“We had wonderful feedback from last year, and the rational side of me says numbers are up due to the national pandemic and kids needing to get out and play. But the personal side says it is to our credit that we put on a good camp that kids, and parents, enjoy and want to be a part of.”
With most of last year’s campers returning, and bringing friends, as well as advertising on social and digital media, camp administrators realized they need to bring in more instructors this year.
“Next year we will probably have to divide the camp into two sessions, most likely separating by ages, so everyone gets the attention and instruction they deserve.”
In her second year of promoting the camp, Edwards said they changed the format a little from last year, but overall, not much else.
“The kids are learning the game, competing, and participating for three hours a day this week,” she said. “They get lunch and a teeshirt at our end of camp pizza party. It is a great set-up that works.”
Each day started with a question and answer period where Charles asked what the campers learned the day before. New “teammates” cheered for each other as they answered the queries and sometimes rose to demonstrate as well.
“The kids seem to enjoy the driving range the best,” said Sick. “But we also make putting and chipping fun, showing them how to be more accurate.”
Paige Keeney, an incoming Elk Lake freshman, is hoping to join the Lady Warrior’s golf team. The Elk Lake girls finished sixth in the state two years ago, and fourth in 2019. They return all of their starting lineup this season, a lineup that Keeney has been able to get out on the green and work with this summer.
“I enjoy the game, and being outside,” said Keeney who also goes golfing with her dad. “Chipping and putting are my favorite part of the game.”
Charles revealed his favorite part of the camp is teaching the game.
“I love to share it with them, teach them how I learned and fell in love with golf when I was a kid,” he said. “It is my chance to give back to the sport and the community, and to help grow the game.”
“Seeing them get it, that’s the best part for me,” he added with a smile.