Sarah Cranmer played sports growing up, and knows the importance sports have in a teenager's life.
"Sports provided me with life lessons," the 22-year-old Elmhurst resident said. "They helped me build confidence and set goals that are more achievable."
Which is why the teen director for the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin is excited about their partnership with the city of Elgin and its golf courses.
The PGA Medalist Golf Camp, which started July 10, is a five-week program for 15 12- to 17-year-olds from the Elgin area who participate in the Boys and Girls Club. Four PGA professionals and apprentices from the golf courses give teens 50-minute golf lessons. Then participants learn a paired 45-minute life lesson from a Boys and Girls Club volunteer, Cranmer said.
For example, next week the teens will learn the importance of balance in their golf swing. After the instruction, participants learn about balance in life -- like balancing a checkbook or prioritizing, said Mike Lehman, Elgin's director of golf operations.
Other lessons include safety, respect/honor and acceptance. The program ends with a lesson on moral code paired with the chance to play at Wing Park Golf Course.
Lehman, also the head pro at Bowes Creek Country Club, said he is excited that after many years of trying to initiate the program, resources like time and donations finally came together.
Pros from Bowes, The Highlands of Elgin and Wing Park volunteered their time and courses for the program because they want to give something back to the community, Lehman said.
The mission of the program resonates with Lehman, one of the instructors who helped develop the program.
"When I was young, golf gave me an avenue to control my emotions and learn a craft," he said. "I enjoy being able to also share that ... and help them capture that same direction I received."
Lehman said a big part of the program came from donations, including from The Sports Shed, a Vernon Hills-based nonprofit that collects gently-used sports equipment and distributes it to programs.
Tina Sernett, executive director for The Sports Shed, said with the expense of golf equipment, she was happy to contribute golf clubs for the participants.
"Sports teaches so many life lessons and it gives kids exercise and fresh air -- all the things I want my kids to have," she said.
Randy Reopelle, Elgin's director of parks and recreation, said the partnership is a way to overcome cuts to city services and preserve social equity.
"We need to focus on finding ways to get kids of all socio-economic levels involved in activities and experiencing things they haven't before," he said.
As for Cranmer, she said she is excited to expose the students to new opportunities, like a career path or scholarship opportunities.
"If this is something they love and want to take to the next level, they now have that option," she said.