Ethan Hernandez, 10, began playing golf two years ago. He’s now hooked.
“It’s very fun to play with your friends,” Hernandez said, “and I’ve gotten way better.”
Rolling Hills Country Club began a junior golf league last spring. Now in its fall season, the league has 17 kids.
“It’s really designed for beginners,” said league coordinator Josh Havard, Rolling Hills’ director of instruction. “We formatted it after Little League baseball or peewee football. It’s an introduction to get kids playing.”
High school coaches have promoted the program to encourage kids to start playing before they become freshmen. More than half the players, who are ages 7 to 13, don’t belong to the north Arlington country club.
Bill Hoelscher signed up his son, Brett, to supplement the 10-year-old’s lessons at Tierra Verde.
“His cousin was taking lessons at Tierra Verde,” said Hoelscher. “He wanted to try it with the same teacher she had, and he found out that he was really good at it and decided to continue with it. Then, we found out about this program through one of his friends.”
The league, which costs $175, includes four team tournaments a season, plus a jersey, hat, golf balls, prizes for the winners and an end-of-season party. The first three-player scramble was held Sept. 28, with last Saturday, this Saturday and Oct. 19 the other tournament dates.
Havard also holds voluntary practices once a week.
“We try to get them no more than three kids at a time,” Havard said. “If you keep it to one, two or three kids, you can give them more hands-on training. A new kid who hasn’t played is guaranteed to be one on one.”
Shelby DiLena registered her girls in the program. Natalie, 8, and Chloe, 7, started going to tennis and golf camps at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving when they each were 5.
“My husband can’t go a day without playing. Otherwise, he can’t breathe,” said DiLena, who lives in Grand Prairie. “So it was just kind of a natural thing that we get them into it. It’s something he loves and knows how great of a sport it is, so we wanted them to try it.
“We belonged to Great Southwest for years, but it didn’t have a program like this, so they didn’t have a lot of interaction with a lot of other kids. But this is a lot more interactive with several other kids, which makes it that much more exciting for them. We really like the program that they’ve got going here.”
DiLena said her girls have a “high level of enthusiasm” when it’s time to go to the course.
Havard said all of the kids have shown improvement.
“Most of the kids we start with are swinging and completely missing the ball together,” Havard said. “By the time we get done, nobody is swinging and missing the ball together. The difference between working with kids and adults is the adults understand the kids have to practice what the instructor tells them, or they’re not going to get better. But when the adult comes for a lesson, they think all they need to have is the information. Somehow or another, they don’t need to practice it. The kids have fun practicing.”