Symetra: Youth golfers pick up tips from the pros

HARRIS – Members of the Symetra Golf Tour hosted a youth golf clinic Tuesday and Wednesday at the Sweetgrass Golf Course in Harris, and every available spot was filled with kids who wanted to pick up a few tricks from the professionals.

Kenadie Dagenais, 11, of Escanaba, said she’s been looking forward to the opportunity to learn from the pros for a couple of weeks now. Dagenais has been golfing for nearly four years.

“I’m very excited,” she said, stating that the thing she wanted to learn most was to not make her drives go to the left.

“I have a bad problem with that,” she said.

Alejandra Llaneza is competing at Sweetgrass for the second straight year. A former native of Mexico, she was a member of the 2008 Mexican National Team at the World Amateur Golf Team Championships.

She said that the instructors taught the kids some of the basics, such as how to address the ball and grip the club. However, the kids also learned that the game is about having fun.

“If they can enjoy it at an early age, then they are going to continue to play and maybe end up where we are,” Lianeza said. “I grew up playing a lot of games with my friends, but they always made sure that we all knew the fundamentals so that we could have a solid base.”

Llaneza added that the course looks great, and the Island Resort and Casino does a great job in hosting the event, and as a result, the players all enjoy the event very much. But she also enjoyed seeing the way some of these kids would just light up after hitting the ball through the air.

“It’s great,” she said. “That’s the best part about teaching a kid, to know that you were a part of getting them more interested in the game and teaching them to have fun. And you also remember that feeling, and you still have it sometimes.”

Another instructor was Michigan native Britney Hamilton, who won the 2009 Michigan Amateur and was a two-time Michigan High School All-State selection.

Hamilton said that the fundamentals of the game are the most important thing to learn at an early age, because it builds a foundation for a solid swing as players get older.

“I still do it,” she said. “My instructor will say, ‘We need to work on your grip.’ If you establish that early, it makes it a lot easier down the line.”

She added that it was her first junior clinic, so it was really fun to watch the kids feel the same thing the pros get to experience while playing.

Trent Marenger, 14, of Gladstone, said the biggest thing he learned Wednesday was swinging off the driver, and making sure that he completes the full swinging motion.

“She seemed to really help with that,” he said.

The Symetra Tour event begins Friday morning and continues at Sweetgrass through Sunday.