Kids don’t typically pick up golf.
Eventual golfers usually discover the sport in their teens or later.
But the New Jersey Golf Foundation and a group of Garden State Goddard schools are working to change that process.
Since 2013, the NJ Golf Foundation, “the charitable arm of the New Jersey PGA Section,” according to a press release from Mastro Communications, the NJGF’s public relations agency, has been sending local pros to teach the sport to Goddard school students.
In 2019, the “Golf in Schools” program came to the Matawan Goddard School on June 27 and 28. It will also hit the Tinton Falls Goddard School, the Marlboro Goddard School and the Hazlet Goddard School as the summer goes on.
The “Golf in Schools” program attempts to introduce the game to children by incorporating it into the physical education curriculum at Pre-K, elementary and middle schools across New Jersey. By the summer of 2012, it was already in schools throughout the state.
But Chris Hunt, the executive director of the NJ Golf Foundation, said the idea to bring the program to the Goddard schools emerged in 2012 after that year’s NJ Golf Foundation Golf Classic, which raises money to support local golf programs for youth players, military veterans and players with special needs. Paul Cerami, who owns various Goddard School locations in New Jersey, played in that tournament and came up with the idea.
“Paul came up to me and said, ‘I know about the program,'” Hunt recalled. “He also said, ‘We could do this at Goddard.'”
“That’s where it started,” Hunt added.
In 2019, “Golf in Schools” should impact more than 110,000 NJ students in Kindergarten through eighth grade, according to the Mastro press release. But at the Goddard schools, they are starting even younger than that.
On June 28, Chris Dzergoski, the PGA Head Professional at Bella Vista Country Club in Marlboro Township, ran a morning session for three year old students at the Matawan Goddard School.
The Matawan kids attend school and summer camp at the Goddard School, experiencing their first week of summer camp. They played golf on a playground with plastic clubs and fuzzy balls, slamming the balls from one end toward a fuzzy flag on the other end.
It was just for fun. But it also introduced the sport to a very young audience.
“You have a lot more kids taking to golf a lot earlier now,” Dzergoski said. “Usually eight is a good age to start.”
“Like as a summer camp activity,” he revealed.
Dzergoski’s session ran from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 27 and 28. The “Golf in Schools” sessions at other Goddard schools will use the same schedule.
The former old man’s game is becoming more firmly entrenched as a game for players of any age. The Matawan kids ran around and smiled as they hit the fuzzy balls on June 28.
“Two of them remembered how to grip the club from yesterday,” Dzergoski said.
In its seven years of existence at the NJ Goddard schools, the “Golf in Schools” program has never expanded beyond 10 locations. There are 60 Goddard franchises in NJ, so Hunt hopes to expand the program at some point.
“We’re trying to introduce them to golf at a young age,” he said. “Studies show it’s more likely to become a lifelong sport if they learn it prior to their teenage years.”