Palm Beach — Whether they’re looking to emulate golf great Tiger Woods or are simply interested in learning more about the sport, youth participating in the Golf Camp at Okeeheelee in West Palm Beach will have fun while picking up important lessons on the course.
Keith Weachter coordinates the junior camp where children as young as 6 and as old as 17, whether they’ve never picked up a golf club before or have already fallen in love with the sport, will be able to learn golfing and, hopefully, lower their handicap.
Weachter’s passion for the sport and his interest in seeing youngsters thrive at it are evident as he describes the camp.
“It’s not only for the beginners who are new to golf, it’s also for our seasoned veterans. We have a mix of kids. Usually we average about 20 students per day that are out there,” he explained.
The camp’s schedule is flexible, with opportunities for parents to enroll their children for the full-time, five days per week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. program. Or if they prefer, parents may sign their kids up for half days, which run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. Campers may attend all five days, or fewer days, depending on what’s convenient for them.
Changes to the schedule are the result of parents’ suggestions, Weachter shared. What hasn’t changed is the total immersion into golf that the camp provides.
“We do golf only. We don’t run any other sports. We incorporate some games that are golf-related,” he shared. “It gives them an opportunity to learn all about the game of golf, to learn about rules, learn about being on the golf course. They get to play some holes and have some fun,” he said of the program that has been around for 19 years.
Founded by Donna Whites, owner of Junior Golf Foundation of America, Weachter said that many of their former campers continue playing the sport as they get older.
“We see kids that grew up doing our camps, they’re actually out there playing in college, playing in high school.” One of their stand out former campers is Brooks Koepka, who is “playing very well on the PGA Tour.” Koepka is a graduate of Florida State University who has earned over $2 million since turning pro in 2012.
Weachter’s own interest in golf is longstanding. “I’ve been playing golf for a long time, I started playing serious golf about three years ago. I started out as a high handicapper just like everybody else.”
He gets a kick out of teaching young golfers.
“I decided that I wanted to teach juniors because they are our future,” he shared. “Not only are we teaching them golf, we teach them about life.”
For children new to the sport, learning the basics comes first.
“They’ve got to learn the basic five positions of the golf swing. They also need to learn the safety as well. It’s a huge factor that we stress per day. We have a meeting before we even go out, safety is the biggest part.”
And while they won’t be able to call themselves golf pros after participating in the camp, he said, “You definitely see the improvement in the kids from the beginning of the summer to the end of the summer. Especially the ones that do it week after week. By the end of the 10 weeks you really do see a big improvement in their swing.”
“We follow a lot with the First Tee program, we’re actually an affiliate of them,” Weachter said.
The First Tee program, which has as its motto, “positive youth development through the game of golf,” reaches young people ages 5 through 18 through golf instruction and life skills lessons administered at chapters, military installations, and to students in elementary schools.
Gratification comes with the youth’s satisfaction.
“You’re able to see the smile on the kids’ faces when they actually start hitting the golf ball,” Weachter said.
Further evidence of the camp’s success can be seen in its repeat customers.
“If you want to have a lot of fun and learn how to play some golf, we have top notch instructors out here that do a fantastic job. The kids have a blast and we get a lot of repeat business, seeing them coming back over and over again.”
The golf camp begins on June 8 and ends on Aug. 14. Rates are offered on a per day basis, ranging from $50 to $95. For more information, please visit http://www.golfproservices.org/jgfa/junior-camps