OSWEGO – Last year, for the first time in 20 consecutive years, there was no junior golf camp at Tamarack Golf Club due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, with vaccination rates high and government easing restrictions, camp has returned in a big way.
“It was a shame not to have our junior golfers with us, but I think they came back in full swing this year because they were excited to play,” said Casey Smith, longtime golfer and former Oswego High School golfer. She is the daughter of John Lawton, the owner of Tamarack, which is located on 2021 County Route 1 in Oswego.
The youngsters have golf fever and that suits them very well.
“Forty-seven kids, which I think is one of our best turnouts ever,” said Smith. “The kids were very safe, very responsible, which we appreciate. I have to say a big thank you to the parents and grandparents and the volunteer family members who were out with the children, especially for the golf portion every day of our camp. It was very helpful and the kids appreciate having a good model on the course. “
On the first three days of the week-long camp, the youngsters trained on the Scriba driving range. They were there for three hours on Mondays and around 90 minutes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, working on elements of their posture and swing such as posture, grip and alignment.
“The most important basics to start your swing,” said Smith. “Really, this setup is important for your swing.”
During the entire camp, especially at the beginning of the week with high humidity, emphasis was placed on keeping golfers hydrated and cool. Smith said they were in the shade under the roof on the driving range most of the time. They would take breaks and also cool off by getting on the golf carts with an adult or a responsible driver.
After practicing on the driving range, the golfers came back to Tamarack to put what they had learned into practice.
Car safety and course etiquette were also taught. Smith said there are basics all golfers on carts need to know. “Even if you are just a driver, make sure you hold onto the appropriate handles, make sure everyone is securely in the golf cart before it drives off, and make sure your golf bag is securely fastened to your back “, she said.
Golf etiquette is also important.
“We taught them that the furthest goes first, especially for safety reasons,” Smith said Thursday. “Today our main focus is on green etiquette – put your feet up as you walk, don’t get in the way, make repairs on the green and on the course when you can, for the next golfer to come through.”
Dan Rose, the golf coach at Oswego High School, provided valuable support at the camp.
“He’s great with the kids. He has a great demeanor. He knows exactly, especially individually, what the kids need to work on so they can improve immediately, which is really important to keeping that frustration down, ”said Smith. “His focus today is on chipping so you can have the shorter putts you’re looking for.”
Smith and her father gave putting lessons.
“Short game is very important. Children focus on their putting stroke, etiquette on the green (picking up their feet, fixing ball marks, etc.) and also working on saving strokes, ”said Smith.
Normally, longest-drive and nearest-to-the-pin contests are held on the driving range during the camp. Smith said they weren’t with such a large group this year to maximize the kids’ time playing golf on the course.
However, there were chipping and putting competitions on Thursday.
“We’re doing the tightest putt and chip for competition today just to really solidify what we have learned and improve their focus so they can be competitive,” said Smith.
The camp was supposed to close on Friday with a captain and crew event.
“We’re going to play nine holes,” said Smith. “The children work together in groups. We’re going to have some of the older kids helping the younger kids in a group of four or five so they can become good models. The younger children will tee off closer to the green. They will work together to develop a strategy to hopefully get a low score. “
After the Captain and Crew tournament, the week ends with a banquet and an award ceremony.
“Every child also gets a T-shirt. Everyone goes away with something, ”said Smith.
For many golfers at the camp, the game will continue in Tamarack in the club’s Junior Golf League. About half of the campers will play in the league.
“We demand that the children be a little more independent for the league on Tuesday morning. They’ll be out Tuesday mornings for the next six Tuesdays starting July 6th from 9:00 a.m. to about 11:30 a.m. or noon, regardless of how long it takes to get to nine holes, ”said Smith. “We leave it pretty open and funny. Children more than anything play golf with their friends these mornings. They can play their own ball, or they can play captain and team or captain and mate. We’ll let them choose the format while they have a chance to hit shots. That is most important to us. “
The league is set up so that it won’t be a problem if the kids have other activities or family responsibilities that keep them away for a week or two.
“You can always do it,” said Smith. “We just want them to be able to play anytime this summer.”
Smith concluded by thanking family members again who were helping out at the camp.
“We appreciate that you are here. They’re an integral part of it, ”she said. “I think it’s a good bond between the parent or family member and the child. The best thing about golf is that it brings the family together, so a big thank you to them. “