SOUTH HEART — Playing the 17th hole of the Pheasant Country Golf Course, 12-year-old Wyatt Bartell, of Belfield, lined up his approach to the green, nailing a shot that traveled the furthest and had the most airtime of anyone in his group.
During one of his practice swings on the same hole, Teytum Streeter, a 10-year-old from Dickinson, made a divot in the fairway. He scurried up a few feet, grabbed the clump of grass and repaired the divot before launching his shot.
Once Bartell, Streeter and the rest of the group reached the 17th green, Ethan Stoltz, a 10-year-old also of Dickinson, had the funniest pronouncement of the day. As he made his close putt for par, he shouted, “I just won The Masters,” drawing smiles from the rest of the group.
“I watch (golf) a lot. I watch the PGA Tour and The Masters,” Stoltz said.
After weeks of learning the fundamentals of a golf swing, proper golf etiquette and other tips from area coaches and professionals, 204 boys and girls made their way to the links to participate in the Youth Clinic Tournament. Shattering last year’s figure by nearly 70 golfers, this summer’s grand total of youngsters is the highest the annual clinic has seen since it began in 2006.
“We’re just trying to grow the game as much as we can and trying to get as many kids involved in the game,” said Kirby Robb, who is the Pheasant Country Golf Course professional and the Heart River girls golf head coach. “We have many beginners out here, coming as young as four years old. We try to stay between six to 18, but the parents will sneak in their four- and five-year-olds in here because they want to get an early start, which is a lot of fun, too. We do have to maintain safety with all the kids, but we have a good time.”
Robb, Tom Meyerhoffer and Dickinson High girls golf coach John Spry are all course professionals who teach during the clinic.
The two-day scramble began on Tuesday, June 25, and concluded on Wednesday, June 26. At the end of each day, every kid received at least one prize — many walked away with two — ranging from new golf shoes and gloves to new golf clubs.
“We always thank our sponsors with everything, they help with the donations,” Robb said. “The course gives back. John and I do it all for free, we don’t take any money. It’s all donated labor, so we enjoy it.”
Bartell began playing last summer, saying that he plays “for the fun of it.” He also said hitting his driver is his favorite part of the sport. As for Streeter, he most enjoys, “just how competitive the sport is.” Both Streeter and Stoltz said Tiger Woods was their favorite golfer.
In 2006, only eight kids participated in the first clinic. With those numbers continuing to rise, golf in the area among the youth has caught on.
“I’ve seen 18 All-State players come through this program, some going on to be state champions and others becoming Mr. or Ms. North Dakota Golf Senior Athlete of the Year,” Robb said. “It kind of fun to see them come from the first grade on through and watch them excel. A lot of them are playing college ball, so it’s very rewarding to see them come at such a young age and go on to become good golfers.”