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May 27, 2014
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Gypsum Golf Course takes aim at young players

GYPSUM — Speakers blared the Jackson Five. The kid who named that tune won a dollar.

A golf cart is parked on the driving range. The kids who hit it won a dollar, or candy or donuts.

Kids are laughing, having fun, loving this new game.

It looks and sounds nothing like a golf course, and Tom Buzbee, head pro at the Gypsum Creek Golf Course, couldn’t be happier about that.

More than 270 middle schoolers spent four days last week learning how to play golf. This week, it’s high schoolers, hundreds of them, too.

And because it’s a physical education class, their teacher, Deb Jordan, runs them from school to the golf course and back.

“It’s fun. Their first experience with golf has to be fun,” Buzbee said.

Ben Welsh does a version of it at Eagle-Vail with Homestake Peak School. Jeff Boyer does it at Eagle Ranch.

“It’s a new experience. I like it and I’d like to keep doing it,” said Luis Landeros, an eighth-grader at Gypsum Creek Middle School.

And they learned a life lesson.

“Golf is a mental game. The most important part is what you’re thinking, not your physical ability,” said Aubree Kaehuel, another Gypsum Creek eighth-grader.

A good idea made better

The Colorado PGA had a pretty good idea, putting golf clubs in kid’s hands during P.E. classes. The difference is that it’s indoors with whiffle golf balls.

The town of Gypsum bought a golf course a few years ago and want people to use it. They politely told the Colorado PGA that they had a better idea. Their kids would play their golf course all four class days. In fact, they’d close the front nine so the kids could play the course.

And because it’s their golf course, that’s what they did. It’s not complicated, and the program seems to be a success.

“Middle school and high school kids want to hit real golf balls on a real golf course,” Buzbee said. “It’s a whole new world for some of these kids.”

If the kids complete the four days, and Buzbee and his crew see that they do, then they can come back all summer, borrow clubs and hit range balls for free. If they bring a friend, and they’re encouraged to bring several, their friends can hit balls, too.

Free Fridays lets never-ever adults play for free: free lessons, free clubs, free everything. You do have to buy your own beer.

“The town is very committed to making sure that if you have the interest, you’re provided the opportunity,” Buzbee said.

Golfers needed

The number of rounds played is plummeting around the country. Golfers are getting older and not enough younger players are taking their place.

“Someone has to make it available to you,” Buzbee said. “The scariest thing about the game is walking through that pro shop door the first time and saying, ‘I want to play golf.’”

It wasn’t that long ago that neighborhood kids either walked around Gypsum Creek Golf Course or practiced what must have been sketching for anatomy class in the sand traps, and sped away before they got caught. Buzbee and Blake Scott, the Gypsum Creek assistant pro, handed those kids clubs, took them to the practice range and taught them to hit golf balls.

As a result, last week one young golfer, a 14-year-old girl, was practicing her swing at Gypsum Creek. She looked up from the practice tee where she was trying to win a dollar by hitting a parked cart with a golf ball.

“I didn’t think I was allowed to be here,” she told Buzbee.

And that sums up every problem golf is suffering.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jun 2, 2014 02:30PM Published May 27, 2014 01:09PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.