Starting the month on an upswing, on Aug. 3, the Guam National Golf Federation introduced the sport to around 20 youngsters ages 5 to 17. The two-hour free clinic, part of the Guam Junior Golf League initiative to make golf available and fun, included instruction from Mel Davis, Lloyd Hart and Richard Paulino.
The GJGL, an instrumental component in the GNGF's outreach program, not only promotes the sport but educates its participants in all facets of the game, including rules, etiquette and competition.
“The main thing is learning the basic fundamentals,” said Davis, who was in between helping a child with his stroke at the Tumon Golf Driving Range. “Once they get the basics, then we get them hitting the ball on the course. Today is to get them out here (and) hitting the ball, and enjoying it.”
For Davis, reaching the kids at a young age, before developing bad habits, is crucial for producing up-and-coming athletes.
“A lot of kids want to hit the golf ball, but they don’t care how,” Davis said. “They just want to hit it.”
With many success stories, the GJGL has helped produce several top-level local athletes, including Brentt Salas, Devin Hua and Kana Kawamura Bangs.
Salas, an NCAA Division I student-athlete, plays golf for the Gonzaga University Bulldogs in Spokane, Washington.
Hua, who also hit the NCAA DI ranks, played for the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears.
Bangs, one of Guam’s elite female golfers, plans to attend the Premier Golf Academy in San Diego, California, in the fall.
“(I) was offered a scholarship at Premier Golf Academy for junior golf division in San Diego, which I plan to attend this coming school year," said Bangs, whose goal is to become a professional golfer.
While Paulino derives satisfaction from his students’ success, the real enjoyment comes from knowing that he has taught them a sport of a lifetime.
“We aren’t trying to make tour pros, we are promoting the game of golf and all … (of its) values,” he said. “Start them young, and most will end up playing for life.”
Paulino, not raising Guam’s golf bar alone, credits the GNGF board members and its coaches for the program’s success.
“These are a group of people that really have nothing vested, but they give back to provide a program that would cost thousands of dollars, per kid, in the states,” Paulino said.
The GJGL, mandated with growing its membership, offers free monthly tournament entries, weekly instruction, and various other benefits. With something for every level of youth golf, the organization offers training at the TGDR, and the Guam International Country Club in Dededo.
On Aug. 24, at the Mangilao Fun Run at Mangilao Golf Course, the GJGL will assist event coordinators. Proceeds from the event will help benefit the GJGL.
Volunteers, both adult and junior, will earn a free round of golf at the Mangilao/GJGL Family Tournament on Sept. 29.
Those interested in learning more about the GJGL or volunteering are urged to email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Facebook @GuamJuniorGolf.