Four-year-old Michael Rosales pushed his adult-size sunglasses up his nose and stroked his chin thoughtfully before sending a golf ball flying wildly down the driving range.
“I hit them hard,” he said proudly.
“He’s 4 years old and he swings like he’s been playing it for a while,” Milton Carswell, Jr., the PGA pro at Stone Oak, said.
Michael is one of about 35 children who participate in an eight-week “Mornings with Milton” children’s summer golf program at the Collins Park course in East Toledo, which is run by Mr. Carswell.
“I think most of the kids really enjoy the program just because they’ve never done anything like it before,” Mr. Carswell said.
Participants pay $8 for each session 9 a.m. to noon Wednesdays; the fees go to Collins Park. Mr. Carswell and about a dozen other coaches volunteer their time in an effort to keep the program affordable.
Children in the program range in age from 4 to 16, and Mr. Carswell aims to teach them various aspects of golf, such as driving, chipping, putting, and etiquette and respect, at age-appropriate levels.
“I always give them a target score to shoot for,” he said.
Some of the children get involved because their parents golf at Collins Park and see flyers for the program. Anessa Santellana, 9, said the coaches do a good job teaching her if she’s having trouble. “They teach me how to swing,” she said.
Some golfers, such as Palmer Yenrick, 13, have participated in the program since it began four years ago and can blast drives that leave spectators awed. Young Yenrick plays in Toledo District Junior Golf Association tournaments and said he has won in the 12 to 13-year-old age category five times.
“I just like competing with other players, getting to know each other,” he said.
Volunteer Jeffrey Myers, the teaching pro at McDivots Driving Range, said it makes him happy to get more young people playing golf, and to see the golfers improving and enjoying themselves.
“The best thing about it is all these kids meet each other and have a blast and become friends,” he said.
Contact Stephen Gruber-Miller at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @sgrubermiller.