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New program designed to teach youth more than just golf

Learning to play golf will be just one of the benefits for youngsters if Black Rock Creek Golf Course Pro Jeff Bender and company have their way.

Bender and Len Walker are putting the finishing touches on starting the Central Washington Gateway to Golf Junior Academy program.

The two are hoping to have the program operating by late summer or early fall.

"We are working on getting things incorporated," said Walker, who will serve as executive director for the academy.

The program will be open to youth ages 9 to 18 from throughout Central Washington. The idea is to offer something for youngsters all year around.

Both Walker and Bender said the goal behind the program is not to necessarily just teach golf skills to youngsters. The academy will also focus on teaching other qualities that will be needed in life, such as sportsmanship and etiquette.

"We would like to do all that while using golf as the enticement," said Bender. "We are using golf as a tool."

"We would like to have great golfers that understand sportsmanship," added Walker.

Bender said the academy program will also look at creating a college scholarship fund that participants in the program can take advantage of to further their education.

There are numerous youth golf programs around the country, but Bender and Walker decided to implement their own design to best suit the needs of those in the Lower Valley.

With Walker as the head, the academy will have a governing board of between five and nine directors.

"We feel we could do better by providing local control," said Walker.

The academy could be considered in many ways a continuation and expansion of the highly successful junior program Bender ran last year at his golf course, which had 40 youngsters participating.

Bender said for him the point of the academy is twofold. One is he would like to give youngsters, who live in what is often referred to as a "Latchkey World," a positive place to go after school, while teaching the wonders of the great sport of golf.

"I would like to help youth develop into decent people," said Bender. "You are just not teaching them a sport, you are teaching them to behave, hopefully."

Bender hopes a lot of young golfers will turn out for the academy, as he would like to see it become a breeding ground for competitive golfers in the future.

"There is a lot of potential not being used here," said Bender.

The initial year of the program, participants will probably have to pay a minimal fee while the board of directors works on securing funding to keep the academy afloat.

"Our goal is to not have a fee," said Walker. "We don't want to eliminate anybody."

The program will run Monday through Friday with participants being furnished golf clubs. In addition to learning the game of golf out on the course, academy participants will also have to do some fun classroom work, said Walker.

"Our intention is to bring in guest speakers as well," said Bender.

The guest speakers won't just be from the golf world, said the Black Rock Creek golf pro. Bender said guest speakers from all different facets will be invited to speak to academy participants.

Bender said he hopes the academy teaches participants about the importance of hard work to get where they want to go in life.

Walker said he is excited about the potential of the academy in Central Washington.

"We would like to have this thing grow into something that will be in existence for a long time," said Walker.

For more information on the academy, call Black Rock Creek Golf Course at 837-5340.

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