The 'Happiest Golfer'
The Pro Resources Growth of the Game program is once again hosting a tournament, youth competition and multiple learning clinics at the Detroit Country Club's Lakeview course to provide opportunities for youth and adults to learn the game and play golf.
A variety of events are planned for Friday and Saturday, June 15-16 — including a visit from avid golfer, motivational speaker and author Bryan Skavnak as part of Saturday's Growth of the Game Youth Clinic.
"I'll be on the (driving) range and the putting green, helping the kids," said Skavnak in a telephone interview. "It's a way to introduce the kids who haven't played before to the game, or to help those who have played some to get a little better. But mostly, I'm going to be there to make sure they have fun."
Skavnak also visited Detroit Lakes last month to promote his other passion: Teaching kids kindness, compassion and empathy.
"I go into schools and teach the kids about how to 'be the nice kid,'" Skavnak said. "I talk a lot about compassion and kindness and empathy, and I do lots of storytelling as a way to engage them. They ask questions and we talk about a lot of things."
During his visit to Detroit Lakes, Skavnak said, "I got to hang out with the kids in Fletcher Nelson's class, and did some games on the playground with them."
Though Skavnak has never golfed professionally, he has taught the sport to kids and adults for more than 20 years now.
"This is my 21st year as a teaching pro," he said. "I played golf in high school and college, and while I was in college I started teaching. I created my own golf classes and golf academy, and just kept growing it from there. I was lucky enough that it went well."
Along the way, Skavnak has also authored a couple of books, though the one for which he is best known is "The Happiest Golfer," which was published in 2012. "Happy Golf Starts Here" was published two years later, in 2014.
"'Happy Golf Starts Here' is a 130-odd page book that's mostly stories about things that have happened to me, my kids and my friends," he said. "Every chapter is a different story, and each story has a life lesson at the end."
Ultimately, Skavnak said, his goal in writing the books was to teach people that "golf is a crazy, frustrating game for some, but there are ways to make it fun and happy."
He said he hopes to bring along a few copies to give out as prizes during the festivities, though he won't be selling them during the clinic.
But Saturday's free clinic is just one aspect of the weekend, which gets underway on Friday, June 15.
"On Friday morning there's going to be a drive, chip and putt competition for kids ages 7-15," says Vern Schnathorst, one of the event organizers. "It's a local qualifier for the national event."
A joint initiative founded in 2013 by the Masters Tournament, United States Golf Association and the PGA of America, Drive, Chip and Putt is a free nationwide junior golf development competition aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills employed in golf.
By tapping the creative and competitive spirit of girls and boys ages 7-15, Drive, Chip and Putt provides aspiring junior golfers an opportunity to play with their peers in qualifiers around the country. Participants who advance through local, sub-regional and regional qualifying in each age/gender category earn a place in the National Finals, which is conducted at Augusta National Golf Club the Sunday before the Masters Tournament and is broadcast live by Golf Channel. To sign up, visit www.drivechipandputt.com.
The 2nd Annual Growth of the Game Open is also scheduled for Friday, June 15 at Lakeview Golf Course, with a 5 p.m. shotgun start.
"The tournament is a scramble, where teams of 4 or 5 players are paired with a Laker girls or boys team golfer," says Schnathorst. "The proceeds from the tournament will go to benefit the golf teams and the Growth of the Game Foundation."
The Pro Resources Growth of the Game at Lakeview Foundation is intended "to give kids and adults who are interested in golf an introduction to the game and provide different opportunities for them to play."
Cost is $25 per player, or $100 per team; individuals can register and be added to a team. To register for the tournament, contact Bob Gorden at 218-234-5509.
The 3rd Annual Growth of the Game Youth Clinic will be held the following day, Saturday, June 16, also at the Lakeview course.
The festivities will begin with an adaptive clinic from 9-10 a.m., for kids with physical or mental challenges. The general skills clinic for the rest of the kids will be from 10 a.m. - noon. The entire event is being offered free of charge for kids from ages 4-14.
There will be a variety of stations that the kids will rotate through: An inflatable golf station featuring Hit-topottomus and Golf-zilla; a drive, chip and putt challenge and a swing clinic.
There will also be face painting, a dunk tank featuring local celebrities, cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs and freezes.
"Each kid will get a Titleist golf cap to take home," Schnathorst added.
Prior registration is encouraged, but not necessary for participation in the clinic. For more information, please call 218-847-8942.