Fore the kids |

Fore the kids

Matt Eversman

It’s a picturesque Vail Valley day. A group of local kids decides to play golf. “Look any direction and you see a golf course,” says one of them. “We’ll be able to play somewhere.” A few phone calls, however, reveals the reality of Eagle County’s golf situation: a lot of courses offering relatively limited public access. The hopeful golfers’ plans are thwarted by expensive green fees and over-booked courses. But there is hope for the aspiring youth golfer.The Vail Valley Junior Golf Association (VVJGA) is offering unprecedented course access and instruction to the valley’s youths for just $100. Each participant is given the opportunity to play at a new course nearly every week.The program was created three years ago by three local professionals (Brock Sloan, Darren Szot, and Ed Marzoc) to provide the opportunity for youths to learn the game of golf and compete. “We just want to promote the game and get kids involved,” explains Szot.And VVJGA is doing just that. The program has grown from 130 to 200 aspiring players and features events at nearly every Vail Valley golf venue. “There’s been a lot of support from the community,” says Szot. “Professionals have been willing to volunteer, and the local courses have been very cooperative.”The VVJGA is divided into competitive and instructional divisions. Younger, less experienced players, are provided a weekly clinic to develop a foundation of skills. “The instruction is great,” explains Szot. “We try to maintain a 3-1 student-to-teacher ratio, which provides a lot individual attention.”Once the players are ready for the course, they’re guaranteed an appropriate level of competition by VVJGA’s ability-based flight system. Each player is put into a group based on average scoring, so less advanced players can still be competitive. But as the players say, VVJGA is really about fun.Keith Denton, a 16-year-old in the most advanced ability group, explains that “[the players] are out there to have fun. The kids don’t get mad or overly competitive. We’re just happy to be out there playing.”The younger competitors feel the same way. Jens Kjesbo, 12, wanted to take up the game of golf because his mom, dad, and brother play. He explains that “VVJGA allowed him to enjoy learning the life-time sport with a lot of different kids. I’ve had a lot of fun and improved.”Szot says his “main goal for the program in the future is to continue to improve the experience of its participants.”For more information on the Vail Valley Junior Golf Associaiton, call Darren Szot at the Cordillera Summit Course at 926-5300.

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