When an individual can learn about the game of golf under excellent minds — and play at an excellent course, no less — what’s to lose?
That opportunity is exactly what the Shawnee State University men’s golf program, along with the Elks Country Club, will be offering for campers from the third through the 12th grades, as the duo have teamed up to offer a youth golf clinic from June 19 through June 23 for kids entering the aforementioned grade levels.
For Dave Hopkins, it’s all about giving back to the younger generations that aspire to pursue golf in the future, just as fellow area natives had done for the current Shawnee State men’s and women’s golf coach when he was a youngster.
“I’m trying to teach my guys the importance of giving back to the game that has been so good to them,” Hopkins said. “They’re all college players, and for them to give back to the sport that has been a blessing to them by teaching younger kids the game of golf and the life lessons that golf can teach them.”
The inspiration for the camp comes from the past efforts of the late Russell Coleman, who was simply known as Russ to most who knew him. Coleman served as a golf instructor at the Elks Country Club throughout the vast majority of his life, and even played in the 1989 Senior U.S. Open as a 50-year old.
“We’re trying to carry on what Russ Coleman did for the youth in our area,” Hopkins said. “Russ was a member at the Elks for about 50 years, and always was instrumental in teaching the younger kids how to play the game. We’re just trying to take what he started out there, and make it bigger and better if we can.”
The instructional talent is certainly there to do just that. In addition to Hopkins — who was a five-time Southern Ohio Conference Coach of the Year recipient and led Notre Dame to an OHSAA State Runner-Up finish in 1996 — Mitchell McFarland, a former Wheelersburg standout and a current Akron student-athlete, Dagan Abdon, a Second-Team All-Mid-South Conference honoree and a former Greenup County standout, three-time All-MSC athlete and current Shawnee State assistant golf coach Josh Zornes, who graduated from Ironton, and South Webster head coach Josh Horner will be among the instructors during the five-day camp, which will go over the nuances of the game of golf.
“We’re going to work on the short game, such as chipping and putting, and we’re going to work on proper fundamentals,” Hopkins said. “That includes how to hold the club and how to align the club properly. We spent about an hour on fundamentals, and then, we let them go out and play on the holes out on the course. My guys go along with them and try to teach them the right etiquette and how to play each hole on the course.”
As he has seen as a long time coach of the game, the second-year collegiate head coach has had players whose lives have been impacted by the sport. By holding this camp, Hopkins hopes that the same holds true for the individuals who attend the camp.
“We want to get some interest back in the game and in Southern Ohio, in general,” Hopkins said. “As the golf coach at Shawnee State, I like to try to get as many Southeast Ohio kids as I can on my team. We’re made up, mostly, of guys south of Columbus. Also, it’s a chance to see if the campers in attendance want to do more with the sport itself, and go onto bigger and better things, like Mitchell McFarland at Wheelersburg, who was a standout for four years and is now playing at Akron. It’s about getting the youth in our area more involved and focused with the sport itself. We need to let kids know that there’s more sports out there other than the big three or four that people play.”
The camp will run from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. each day and costs $100 per child. All of the money that is raised from the camp will be put back into the golf course.
“We’re making improvements already at the Elks with what’s been done to the fairways and the greens,” Hopkins said. “The money raised here will only add to the progress that’s already been made.”
For more information about the camp, contact the Elks Country Club at (740) 259-6241.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7