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June 6, 2012

Kevin Weickel: Be Creative with Range Facilities to Increase Junior Participation

Kevin Weickel, the 2009 and 2011 North Florida PGA Section Golf Professional of the Year, and 2012 North Florida PGA Section Horton Smith Award winner, is the tournament director of the PGA Tour’s Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Fla.

Kevin Weickel on the importance of being creative with range facilities to increase junior participation:
I work with the Orlando Minority Youth Golf Association in hopes to increase junior golf participation in our area. It becomes hard to get juniors more involved when they aren’t having fun, or when they don’t have any experience with the game. With the help of the foundation that we are partnered with, we decided to implement a new program for these students using our own driving range. We created “Bunker Day”, which involves roughly 50-70 kids using our practice area for the day. We had a Toro workman vehicle filled with sand and then shoveled mounds of sand all over our range surrounding the target greens, so we could practice bunker shots out of the sand. Each student was paired off with someone else, and we utilized all four of our target greens so that everyone would be included. The juniors were the ones who helped shovel and pack the sand into an organized, designated bunker zones. I think the juniors really had fun with this, and it got them excited to hit out of the man-made bunkers. Each student took turns with one other student, and each zone had enough space to avoid any collisions or accidents. I think this fun activity really eased the stress for the juniors and it took away any intimidation or nervousness they felt about playing from sand. This idea also allowed me to keep the golf course open for guests because I didn’t have to shut down any holes for this program. We would let the juniors hit out of these “bunkers” until all of the sand was gone. It’s really an inexpensive project and there wasn’t much of a cleanup, either. It is a great way to show kids that they can have fun with golf, yet it allows them to get some great practice shots in too.

Kevin Weickel on the business impact of being creative with range facilities to increase junior participation:
This program has led to many junior golfers taking their game to the next level by playing high school golf. Some of these juniors do come back to play real rounds, or will even schedule lessons. I think the biggest impact is seeing juniors take the game more seriously, which will ultimately grow any business. These kids control the future of the game, and this program ensures that younger people are passionate about golf and will continue to play for a long time.