Benchmark Program Teaches Young Golfers Life Lessons
by J. James McTigue
Jul 05, 2011 | 1420 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<B>GOLFERS FINISHED UP</B> a round of play on the 18th hole of the Telluride Golf Course Wednesday evening, during youth benchmark program practice. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
GOLFERS FINISHED UP a round of play on the 18th hole of the Telluride Golf Course Wednesday evening, during youth benchmark program practice. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
TELLURIDE – Young golfers like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie, and most recently Rory McIlroy, have certainly inspired youth to play golf. However, the cost and accessibility of the sport can be prohibitive. Regional golf outreach programs across the country do what they can to offset costs and expose the sport to more kids, and it is no different in Telluride.

For the 16th season, the Telluride Golf Club, with the support and funding of the Telluride Foundation, is offering students ages 10 to 16, who attend Telluride Public Schools or the Telluride Mountain School, free summer golf clinics.

The Benchmark Program, formerly known as the Strokes of Genius Golf Program, offers Telluride youth six Friday clinics throughout the summer. Participants are required to attend at least three of the six clinics, and then become eligible for two complimentary private lessons with a golf pro, and gain access to the golf course and driving range based on availability. The registration deadline for the program was June 6.

According to Samantha Fritz, head golf pro for the Telluride Golf Club, there are a total of 50 kids signed up for the program this summer, and around 40 attended the first clinic. She expects around 20 participants at each clinic for the rest of the season.

The Benchmark Program is made possible thanks to a collaboration between the Telluride Golf Club and the Telluride Foundation, each doing what it does best: The Golf Club supplies the golf and personnel and the Foundation provides the funding.

In addition to teaching golf skills, Benchmark strives to impart lessons of honesty, responsibility, hard work, and sportsmanship upon its participants.

“Golf is the only game where you have to call your own penalties,” Fritz says. “It’s an individual game and you have to trust yourself and those you play with and that they will call their penalties. If you cheat on the course, you cheat yourself and the people you are playing.

“It helps with self presence, self worth, and etiquette,” she continues. “The program gives the kids an opportunity to grow not only as a person, but enjoy the game of golf.”

Fritz herself started playing golf when she was 12. She joined her dad on the course one day and discovered she had a natural swing, so he put her in lessons. Now golf is her career.

“For kids, [this program] is a great introduction and then they can decide if this is what they like.”

The lessons the Benchmark Program is exposing Telluride kids to this summer may last a lifetime, enabling them to enjoy a sport they can enjoy well past their teenage summer days.
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