Aiken Hook A Kid On Golf
The youth of Aiken have had a broad range of organized sports available to them for many years but golf had limited access due to most facilities being private. To help this situation a program was initiated in 2002 to give “kids” who would not normally have access to golf an opportunity to learn about the game. The inspiration for the program came from memorials made to Frank R. Lock, Jr. following his untimely death in 2000. Lock had been a prominent golfer in the area and held the course record at the Palmetto Golf Club for twenty-eight years. He had a strong interest in junior golf and wanted to initiate a program for youth in Aiken.
Initial discussions with Glenn Parker, Director of Parks, Recreation and Tourism for the City of Aiken, indicated strong support for a golf program and he suggested contacting the National Alliance for Youth Sports and their program called Hook A Kid On Golf. Through their program, materials could be purchased for each child that would include a carry bag, five clubs, shirt, hat, golf balls and a simplified rule book. These were good quality clubs and were selected to match the size of the child. Upon completion of a clinic, the participants got to keep the materials. The recommended program was for kids from eight to thirteen years old.
In the first year, clinics were conducted at the Palmetto Golf Club and Houndslake Country Club. The next year, clinics were added at Woodside Country Club, the Golf Club at Cedar Creek and The Reserve, in addition to continuing at Palmetto and Houndslake. In 2019, golf clinics were held at Palmetto, Cedar Creek, Houndslake, Woodside Country Club and the River Golf Club. Clinics were cancelled in 2019 due to concerns about the COVID virus. Clinics have been limited to approximately 35 participants. Croquet was added in 2003 at the Green Boundary Club with the program modeled after the approach used in the golf clinics. Croquet was dropped in 2017 when facilities were no longer available at the Green Boundary Club. The professional staffs and volunteers at each club were critical to the programs success.
In 2021 the program included 186 participants with 32% being girls. Funding is obtained from South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation, Palmetto Amateur, Kisner Foundation the Heritage Classic Foundation, local businesses, Sertoma Clubs and members at clubs where the clinics have been conducted. Through this generous support 67% of the cost is underwritten for all participants and full scholarships are made available to any kid who can not afford the application fee. In 2021, the cost per golf participant was approximately $191.
The format of the Clinics was golf instruction from 8:30am to 11:15am each morning (Monday-Friday). On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday lunch was provided with Special Programs to follow. In these programs discussions concerning topics relevant to the kids such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related to golf and meeting Public Safety Officers from the City of Aiken, Aiken County Sheriffs Department or the North Augusta Public Safety and their canine support team (drug dogs). The intent was to reinforce positive concepts to help the youth transition the sometimes difficult teenage years. On Fridays the kids got to play a few holes on the course. Parents/grandparents were invited to watch on Friday to see how much their children had learned and to attend an awards ceremony.
The program was recognized in 2006 as the Site of the Year out of 250 Hook A Kid On Golf Clinics across the country. Program coordinator and President of the Aiken Junior Sports Association Joe Spencer received the Don Springer award at a special ceremony.
A number of our participants from the past have joined local golf teams at the Middle and High Schools. Several of our first participants have received golf scholarships for college. Golf proficiency is one measure of the success of the program but the more important one is the kids being introduced to a game they can play throughout their life. Golf provides a great venue to teach many important concepts- honesty, respect for your opponents, responsibility for knowing and abiding by the rules, proper behavior and individual responsibility for your performance.
The program was incorporated as the Aiken Junior Sports Association (AJSA) and IRS approval was granted for 501 (c)(3) status as a nonprofit organization. The Aiken Hook A Kid On Golf is conducted under the AJSA. All funds are used for purchase of materials or providing lunches. No individuals or Clubs receive compensation except two college interns were added in 2021. Contributions to support the program should be made to the Aiken Junior Sports Association and sent to 203 Club Villa Drive West, Aiken, SC 29803.