For the 12th straight year Hook A Kid On Golf sites from across the U.S. hit the links at the Traditions of Golf Challenge, a one-of-a-kind competition that stresses the importance of golf's rules, etiquette and history, along with playing skills.
The team representing the Prospect Heights Park District at the competition, held Aug. 6-8 in Bloomington, Ind., captured this year's title with a score of 28 under par. The park district also won in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
The team from West Palm Beach, Fla. finished second at 22 under par and the team from Bloomington, Ind. was third at 21 under.
"All of our team members are still talking about what a special time they had playing and working together as a team," said Marc Heidkamp, head pro at Old Orchard Country Club and coach for the Prospect Heights team.
"This year's team was comprised from the youngest to oldest players allowed to participate," he said. "The coolest thing was they all melded together and got along with each other wonderfully."
Prospect Heights team member Alexi Heidkamp said, "Competing on a team is great! You get to know your teammates on a different level, not just as friends you study with or play golf with, but you become one. You are confident that where one teammate lacks skills there is someone that will excel."
Other participating teams were from Naperville, Chicago, Chicago Heights, Peoria, Richmond, Va., Hamburg, N.Y. and Indianapolis, Ind.
"The Traditions of Golf Challenge was a huge success yet again," said Andy Parker, tournament director for the Traditions of Golf Challenge. "This special event does an extraordinary job of testing players on all aspects of golf. Missing a putt can be just as costly as not replacing a divot in the fairway. The teams are extremely focused and well prepared because they know they are going to be challenged every step of the way."
Teams consisted of two coaches and eight youngsters. Each team's score from their round was combined with their "Traditions of Golf" score to determine the overall champion of the two-day tournament.
"This year's players were selected on two levels. The first level was players that have attended in the past that earned the privilege to continue going after their goal of winning nationals," Heidkamp said. "Level two was based on kids from our entire program that showed the passion to develop their game and stay in our program and achieve personal goals in developing their games."
Cities were selected to participate in the Traditions of Golf Challenge based on their commitment to using the entire Hook A Kid On Golf program to introduce children to golf who may not otherwise have the opportunity. Sites then choose eight participants to attend, ranging from ages 9-15.
"The best part of this year's event was to watch our senior players help the younger players out," said Heidkamp. "It was truly special to the younger kids that after closing ceremonies I witnessed several of them crying. This caused the parents to cry."
"I have never seen such joy from a group of kids like I did Sunday afternoon."
Although the weekend was full of golf-related competitions, participants still managed to have additional fun. On Saturday night teams gathered for a pizza party coupled with games of basketball and dodgeball. Coaches and players all participated, which only brought everybody in attendance closer together.
A believer in the power of golf instruction to instill valuable life skills, Heidkamp anxiously awaits the chance to participate in the Traditions year after year.
"The main reason we attend the event each year is because the kids earn the chance to participate and this format truly helps them develop so many life skills that will be presented to them their entire lives," he added.
Hook A Kid On Golf, a National Alliance for Youth Sports program, is a youth golf program that eliminates the obstacles that often prevent many youngsters from enjoying the game.
For information on the Traditions of Golf Challenge or Hook A Kid On Golf, visit www.hookakidongolf.org.