Golf Director John Malinowski and others at the Ocean Pines Golf Club are helping to teach the next generation of players during annual junior golf summer camps.
Malinowski said the camps started modestly in 2013, with just 17 children participating during the first year. This year, attendance will top 140 over four separate week-long sessions.
“It’s been a big turnaround,” he said.
Camps run every other week, starting one week after schools let out. The final summer camp this year started on Monday, Aug. 5. Programs each day run from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday, with Fridays set aside as a “rain day.”
Malinowski said skill levels run the gamut, with children ages 5 to 13 participating.
“Sometimes you get 5 and 6-year-olds that are very experienced, and sometimes you get 13-year-olds that have never even touched a club before – and you get everything in between,” he said.
Participants on Monday started off in two groups, with those 10 and older hitting the driving range, while the younger set started out putting on a practice green.
“Coach” Malinowski and the other camp counselors emphasized two things on day one: safety and fun.
“You start out the day talking about how to hold the club and how to swing, what an iron is, what a wood is, what a green is and what a fairway is, and you kind of give them the pure basics of everything,” he said. “Our goal, by the end of the week, is to get everybody out on the golf course to at least play one or two holes. That way, they can experience and put to use what they’ve been working on all week.”
He said children both from Ocean Pines and surrounding areas take part in the camps.
“It’s really a good mixture of kids that live here and then you get grandparents that bring their grandkids in,” he said. “We also have some kids that have aged out, but they’ll come back to play our course. One kid was one of our campers for years but he’s too old now, so he comes back and plays with his dad every Wednesday afternoon.”
Malinowski’s daughter, Emily, was once a junior golfer and for several years now has returned as a camp counselor.
“I really enjoyed golf camp and it taught me a lot, so to be able to give back and teach the kids some of what I learned is really nice,” she said. “Golf embodies a lot of things. For me, it was discipline and figuring out how to come back from a bad spot. They learn how to play with others and have fun, but also how to be an individual at the same time, which is good. And they learn patience.”
On Monday, Emily led about a dozen of the smallest junior golfers on the putting green.
“I love kids a lot and I love working with them,” she said. “When you’re younger, that’s where the basics start out. To be able to teach them the basics of golf and how to swing a golf club is really nice.”
This fall, Emily will start college at the University of Maryland. She said several of the lessons learned at the Ocean Pines Golf Club would go with her, including discipline, individuality, and respect for others.
“And just the routine,” she added. “I know it sounds kind of silly, but when you’re playing golf you have to set a routine and to keep yourself in check. Golf has helped me a lot.”
Matthew Holland, 12, said he’s been coming to the summer camps for as long as he can remember.
“I like it,” he said. “I came here, and I pretty much learned everything I know [about golf].”
Holland said he enjoys the junior golf program “because you get to play and there’s snacks.”
“I just think golf is fun,” he said. “And the instructors are always nice. I’d recommend the camp.”
Isha Garg, 10, has been attending the camps since she was 5. She’s also played golf with her dad and has gotten other private lessons.
“Here, they taught me how to have a slow backswing and how to accelerate through,” she said.
Garg is generally a regular during all four sessions, each summer.
“I just like how you get to talk with friends, and you get to practice your skills with golf,” she said.
John Malinowski admitted there were some unique challenges to running the summer program his year, with construction of a new Golf Clubhouse underway. Instead of occasionally being indoors, campers would take breaks under a large tent near the driving range.
Still, there hasn’t been a noticeable impact to attendance, as all four sessions easily sold out.
“Some things are a little bit inconvenient, but we’ve got everything set up and it’s running smoothly now,” he said. “We had it all kind of figured out after about the second day of the first full week. The big tent is kind of our junior camp home during the week and it’s really worked out pretty well.
“That said, we’re all looking forward to the clubhouse being completed,” Malinowski added.
For more information on junior golf programs at the Ocean Pines Golf Club – including weekly clinics, private lessons and junior golf memberships – visit www.oceanpinesgolf.org/junior-golf.