This time of year, many kids are wondering how they might fill their summer vacation. This week, some kids who gathered at Zoller Elementary in Schenectady now have a better idea – they want to play golf.
“I joke with the kids that it won’t take long for them to get better than me,” says Brian Melanson, a physical education teacher at Zoller. “You don’t get good at something you do two or three times a year and that’s with anything in life.”
With donated SNAG – Start New At Golf – equipment from the Junior Golf Alliance of New York, Melanson has incorporated the game into the urban environment. That is whether Mother Nature likes it or not.
“It was a blast,” Melanson said. “We had a whole plan as to how we would go about it this year and the weather happened. Anyone who coaches wants to play outside.
“We managed to make it happen anyway but we were inside a lot. We were only outside twice.”
Last year, they had just 11 kids sign-up for the golf unit but when they opened it up to the third through fifth grades this year, that number swelled to 30, he said. Others helping with the kids and the program include Jim Toomey, Richard Simon, Stephen Smith, Warren Hamilton and Steve Keeler.
“A lot of kids are looking to be the next LeBron James or, this year, Kevin Durant so when I can expose them to other things to do that they might not otherwise be exposed to and become a better person for it, that’s what my goal was,” Melanson said.
This past Tuesday (June 13), the 10-week program – once a week for an hour – concluded with a friendly competition on the Zoller playground that included half a dozen parents and 28 kids. It also included a long-drive competition and putting contest on the basketball court.
“We were fortunate enough to have the custodians come and cut the grass for us,” Melanson said. “They’re golfers and so they made it look like a little golf course out there with the rough and the green area, like a real golf course. That was really cool.”
Additionally, there was a par-4 hole and a closest to the target challenge for the seven foursomes not beating the sunset but rather finishing before the late bus left.
“Golf’s a lifelong sport and as a physical educator I’m looking to get kids involved in a lot of different things,” said Melanson, a Burnt Hills product who has been teaching in Schenectady for 19 years. “And working at an urban school, not many kids are exposed to stuff like this.
“Really, I’m looking to make better people.”
During one of the rainy weeks, the kids in the program were visited by members of the Symetra Tour, who were playing at Capital Hills @ Albany earlier this month. Click here for that story.
The Junior Golf Alliance of NY is now offering the First Tee LINK programs as a half-day, week-long camps that are open to any youth participant interested in the game of golf. Camps are designed to accommodate any youth whether they be new to golf or have been playing golf for a number of years.
New participants will learn golf skills and start The First Tee Life Skills Experience while the more experienced golfers will be challenged with specific learning opportunities that will test their golf skills and Life Skills knowledge such as Three Tips for Having Fun while Learning, Staying Well for Life, Finding Your Personal Par, and creating Goal Ladders.
MORE PHOTOS FROM ZOLLER
“I tell them I love to go play, I’ll get my 120 strokes. I get my money’s worth. One of those 120 will be an amazing shot and that’s what gets me to come back.”