HARRIS - Part of being on the Symetra Tour is ensuring that the sport of golf remains strong through the youth in each community the athletes visit.
Wednesday at Sweetgrass Golf Club, 11 Tour professionals and Carley Saint-Onge, one of two amateurs playing this weekend, shared their expertise with budding young golfers at a free clinic.
Four stations were set up for the eager pupils to learn how to better drive, chip and putt. Everything from stance to follow-through was taught and most of the students came away having learned a new technique or two.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Carley Saint-Onge helps Derek Douglas adjust his grip on his driver during a free golf clinic at Sweetgrass Golf Club Wednesday afternoon.
The pros were patient and friendly as could be as they spent as much one-on-one time with each student as time allowed.
"I love it. This is the first clinic I've done and it's really rewarding to help kids," said Brittany Benvenuto of Philadelphia.
"It's also good because it helps me remember the basics of golf. They make it so complicated now. It's good to just go back to the basics."
One of the students Benvenuto helped was 12-year-old Taylor Gauthier, who impressed even the professionals with her excellent swing on the driving range.
"I learned some good tips like how to hit a fade and how to hit with my irons better," Gauthier said, noting her driving ability "just comes natural.
"I feel honored having learned from the pros. It's amazing to be told by them how good my shot is."
Benvenuto said "Taylor is a great athlete and it's cool to see her take an interest in the sport. She really enjoyed herself today."
Saint-Onge was also helping out on the driving range but was emphasizing control with the club, rather than distance. She said one of the challenges of teaching technique was remembering the basics when it comes so natural to a seasoned golfer.
"You kind of get into a routine when you're out playing, but you have to think of the fundamentals when you're teaching. You just have to dig down deep and remember," she said.
"it's fun to see kids this age on the golf course. I started when i was 7 and it's good that kids here are starting early. It's a lifetime skill, so to start early is great."
Trinity Byrnes, 10, said she learned a new way to grip her club.
"They showed me my hand grip was wrong. I had my fingers together and they showed me the right way to hold it," she said. "They were all great and very nice teachers."
Andy Pouliet, 12, Vince Hughes, 11 and 13-year-old Braydon Ferguson also each learned better ways of gripping their clubs.
"They showed me how to loosen my grip so the ball goes straighter," said Ferguson. "I was able to hit it a lot further using what they showed me."
Ulrika Van-Niekerk of Cape Town, South Africa said one of the challenges of teaching was helping kids unlearn improper technique.
"A lot of kids learn from their parents and have never had access to a professional, so teaching proper technique feels strange and some don't want to change it," she said. "I was surprised though at how young many of them started out. A lot of kids play golf because their parents tell them to, but some of them told me they play five times a week. There's so much potential there."
Van-Niekerk added "It's always fun to teach the little ones,"
Britney Choy of Wahiawa, Hawaii had fun helping kids on the putting green and even wished she had more time to teach.
"I always like helping kids as long as they're having fun. It's hard to teach technique in two minutes though, but as long as it's fun, that's the main goal," she said.
"I did give a couple kids some pointers and their putting automatically got better. It shows they're good listeners. I'm glad I was able to help someone today."
This is Choy's second trip to Sweetgrass and she continued to rave about the facilities and the surrounding community.
"This is one of the best events all year. Any time you come and the (Hannahville) tribe is involved, you know you're going to get taken care of. Everyone is so nice, the area is beautiful, the course is perfect and the food is great. People (in other towns) say watch out for those yoopers, but we really look forward to coming up here," she said.
"For last year being the first year of this event, you didn't know what to expect coming in, but it was like they had been running it for years. The people here remembered my name and I actually remembered theirs as well."