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Golf program gives kids a head start on game basics

SNAG a fun and thrifty way to learn the sport
By: Gloria Young,
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SNAG program for elementary school students
When: 
Beginning Thursday, March 7
Where:  Home on the Range driving range, 671 Newcastle Road, Newcastle
Info: (916) 663-4653

It took just one day on the course at St. Andrews in Scotland — the birthplace of golf — and Phil Green was hooked.
“That just set it in stone what I was gong to do for the rest of my life,” he said Wednesday.
Green, owner of Home on the Range golf instruction and driving range in Newcastle, works to build and nurture an interest in the sport. As part of that, he is offering a free SNAG (Starting New at Golf) program instruction and league play for third through eighth-grade students enrolled in the Auburn and Newcastle elementary school districts.
“They’ll come to the facility to practice on Thursdays with PGA professional instruction and come back on Saturday to play,” he said.
Green, who coaches golf at E.V. Cain, said he’ll be placing informational fliers at Skyridge, Rock Creek, Auburn Elementary, Alta Vista and Bowman School as well as at Newcastle and Loomis schools and has scheduled the first day of practice for March 7.
He’s also seeking a parent volunteer for each group of children to oversee their visit and assist in the instruction.  
“With SNAG equipment, it takes five minutes to show an adult, who can transfer it right over to the (students),” he said.
He describes SNAG is an easy, non-stressful way to learn the basics of the game.
“One thing that happens in golf is that it is frustrating for people to learn with traditional equipment,” Green said. “SNAG has specific balls, clubs and equipment. The clubs are bigger with a special grip so that hands start off in the right position. The most common error with most golfers is improper grip. If we get (kids) started with the proper grip and fundamentals, when we get them into regular golf, they will have a much easier time.”
The SNAG ball is a miniature tennis ball.
“It’s not as small as a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball,” he said. “Instead of hitting it into a hole, they hit it onto a Velcro cone. So it sticks to the Velcro.”
Green estimates the after-school program will run from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on practice days. Then on Saturday, the range will become a nine-hole SNAG course for league play.
“The nine holes take about 45 minutes for beginners to go through,” he said. “It keeps their interest the whole time and they can see the end of the course. … Instead of them carrying around a whole bag of clubs, they’ll be carrying around one club — like putt-putt. But instead of a putter, they’ll be carrying around a pitching wedge.”
Use of the field and the equipment will be free for those enrolled in the leagues.
Green has offered a SNAG program since shortly after it was introduced.
“When it came out in 2001, I thought it was a great idea to bring into my daughter’s classes and show (the students) about the game of golf. That’s how I got involved,” he said.
He also has offered SNAG leagues and camps — for children and seniors — through Auburn Recreation District.
“I think the SNAG program is outstanding, especially for people who are intimidated by golf,” said Sheryl Petersen, recreation services manager for the Auburn Recreation District. “It simplifies what you need to do in order to strike the ball and enables early success. The other thing I really love about it is it’s for all ages; kids as young as 18 months up to seniors. I really think it’s a great opportunity for kids to be introduced to the sport in a very inexpensive way. We’ll be doing summer camps for kids as well in SNAG program.”
Golf is a multi-generational passion in Green’s family. His grandfather was an avid golfer whose son, Green’s uncle, became a PGA pro and golfed in Canada, he said.
Green was with his grandfather on a visit to Scotland to see the country of his family’s roots when he got that opportunity to golf at St. Andrews.
“From playing tournaments to now trying to (train) the next generation of golfers, there is just so many positive things about this sport,” he said. “The more children, adults and seniors I can put a club into their hand and get them playing golf, the better their life is going to be.”
Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.