Making golf interesting for 9- and 10-year-olds gets a boost this week in Baltimore County public schools.
Through the cooperative efforts of Larry Herrold, supervisor of physical education in the elementary schools, and Wayne Harman, county director of recreation and parks, a class in golf will be available to fifth-graders in about half of the county's 95 elementary schools.
"Some of our teachers provided golf instruction on their own in the past, but this is the first time we have tried it on a county-wide basis," Herrold said the other day.
"We sent a questionnaire to our physical education teachers asking, if they had the equipment, would they will be willing to teach a basic unit in golf, and we received affirmative responses from 47 schools."
The program received enthusiastic support from Harman, golf professionals from the county's three public courses, and manufacturers who donated equipment.
Earlier this month, on a day when single-digit wind-chill forced a shift from scheduled outdoor clinics to three high schools, about 125 teachers received an hour of instruction and were given a six-lesson booklet which provides a step-by-step introduction to the sport.
At Dulaney High School (Randallstown and Chesapeake were also used), Longview GC professionals Frank Laber and Bart Colgan handled the clinic.
Colgan, who has run junior clinics the past two years, stressed the importance of the safety factor. "The trick is to keep the students busy and make it fun for them," he said.
Laber, head pro at Longview for 13 years, and Colgan explained the basics of the game, its etiquette and terminology, and emphasized the idea of an effort-reward situation. For the teachers, students and anyone else interested, Colgan will begin a series of once-a-month free golf clinics April 12 at Longview.
Several teachers -- ones who had taught golf in the past as well as newcomers -- thought the biggest problem would be making it safe, but others who had done it before said they had had no trouble.
For instance, Chris Ramer, a teacher at Sparks, has taken field trips to Hunt Valley GC for golf and tennis.
Ann Pruett (Pine Grove) expressed safety concerns. "There are plastic lacrosse sticks and Nerf footballs, so why can't there be plastic clubs?
"I think it's important the students are taught correctly, experience success and, obviously, not get hurt. However, if you have a group of three or four, I can see it becoming one swinging the club and the others making like pedestrians in heavy traffic," she said.
Sue Mason (Relay and Hillcrest) said she was surprised more schools did not have positive responses. "I'm excited about the idea, but then I like these things. I think it's important that it is a lifetime sport."
Another enthusiast about the lifetime aspects was Don Williams (Riderwood), who spoke of enrichment activities that could be included in the curriculum. "The thing that makes it go, however, is the support of companies that donate equipment."
It means the program won't cost any money at this time and might be an incentive for other schools to participate.
"From 47 schools now, we can see getting 60 or more next year, and I suspect in a couple of years all our schools will be involved," Herrold said. "It's simply an extension of things we already do."
Harman said the program is exposure for another leisure-time sport. "One of the things schools can provide is lifetime activities in recreation and health.
"All the feedback I have received has been positive. We allow the high school golf teams to play for free, we have youth clinics in the summer, and the thing I'm learning is that golfers will step forward to volunteer their time."
Now, the next program ought to be long-range funding so that by the time these fifth graders are in high school they will have another public golf course available to them.
Changing jobs: During the past year, there were 53 head professional/director of golf position changes in the Middle Atlantic PGA. New head professional appointments included Al Green, Lake Arbor, and David Hansinger, Cambridge. Tom Hanna, formerly at Harbourtowne in St. Michael's, is the new director of golf for the University of Maryland GC.
Short shots: From a starting field of 62 teams, the opening two rounds of the annual Maryland State Golf Association team matches next weekend will reduce the field to 16 teams, eight in each section -- Washington and Baltimore. . . . Arantxa Sison (Glenn Dale GC), an Oklahoma State student, tied for eighth in the women's intercollegiate Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas. She had a 54-hole total of 230, five shots behind co-winners Vicki Goetze of runner-up Georgia and Annika Sorenstam, from team champion Arizona.