As a three-year member of the Santa Clara Diving Club, Sophia Ward, 11, of San Jose, has won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals in her division at competitive diving meets.
Sophia, along with her parents Peter and Andie, both school teachers, and two older brothers, Simon and Ethan, spend a lot of time in Oakhurst at the family’s vacation home.
When her parents saw the announcement about the three-day Golf Camps at River Creek Golf Course in Ahwahnee at www.sierrastar.com, they thought it would be a great opportunity for their 4-foot-3, 52-pound daughter to try a different sport. Andie did not hesitate to sign-up her daughter.
“We have tried to expose our children to as many sports as we can, so they can have a well-rounded experience in athletics,” Peter said.
But the plan of registering Sophia in Golf Camp had one minor hitch - taking golf lessons this summer was the last thing on Sophia’s mind.
“She did not want to go and was actually a little upset with my wife for signing her up,” said Sophia’s smiling father. “But when she came home after the first day of camp, she was excited and thanked her mother for signing her up. She then told us for her next birthday she wanted a set of clubs and a golf bag.”
Although Sophia got a little teasing from her two brothers, after she told them she was going to ‘Gulf’ Camp, she just changed the name to ‘G’ Camp, and that ended the teasing.
“I really liked being on the driving range and having the chance to play on the course,” Sophia said.
The golf camp instructor is Perry Slocum, who has been a PGA teaching pro for 22 years.
Although his high school at the time, Willow Glen, did not have a golf team, he started playing and working at the age of 14 at the Almaden Country Club in San Jose.
“This is a great program for these youngsters,” Slocum said. “Our number one goal is for these kids to have some fun while learning the basics of golf. They learn a combination of the basics of golf, and some life lessons like not talking when I’m talking, just like not talking in school when the teacher is talking.”
“Mr. Slocum is a great coach ... I liked him a lot, and he made it fun,” Sophia said.
Jacob Campion’s mother, Amber, said her husband Greg took Jacob to the golf course when he was 4 years old, but Jacob quickly got frustrated because he couldn’t hit the ball.
“This year he decided he wanted to try again and was determined to hit the ball,” Amber said.
“I liked everything about golf camp and now I can hit the ball,” Jacob proudly said. “I also learned how to putt.”
The $45 three-day camp is concluded with a hot dog lunch and the presentation of certificates to the campers.
Slocum told the group that he saw great improvement in every player over the three-day camp.
“All you have to do now is go home and tell your parents they need to bring you to the course now and then so you can play and continue to get better,” Slocum told the campers.
River Creek participates in “Youth on Course,” a national program that allows young golfers to play a round a golf at participating courses for just $5.
“Hopefully all these youngsters had a good time, and learned enough to continue playing this great game called golf,” Slocum said.
The camps, geared to 6 to 16-year-olds, are kept to a maximum of eight participants to assure plenty of one-on-one instruction from Slocum.
The first four camps were so successful, River Creek General Manager Scott Michel added two more (Aug. 1-3 and Aug. 8-10) which have already sold out. Michel advised anyone wishing to place their child on a waiting list for the two camps to call River Creek.
River Creek is planning to hold additional golf camps during the fall and spring school breaks.
“And due to the great response we have had, we’ll start earlier in the summer next year so more children can attend,” Michel said.
“We really appreciate River Creek’s reasonable cost and excellent instruction for the three-day camp, making golf accessible and fun for our Mountain Area kids,” Peter Ward said.
Details: River Creek Golf Course, (559) 683-5600 - www.rivercreekgolfcourse.com.