LA84: Students get more opportunities ‘Fore’ sports.

The sun was out, and the weather was perfect at the Whittier Narrows Golf Course, as Think Together students had the unique opportunity to learn the game of golf. Eighteen Think Together middle school students from the Bassett Unified School District and South Whitter School District participated in a golf clinic thanks to the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation and the LA84 Foundation on Saturday, April 15.

Through sustainable grants from the LA84 Foundation, Think Together has expanded sports to every middle school program across Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties, giving more than 7,000 students at 88 schools the opportunity to engage in sports.

To start the clinic, students gathered in a circle for an icebreaker with their golf instructors for the day. Students were introduced to the fundamentals of golf, such as correct stance and how to hold a golf club. Next, students participated in the standard golf stretches and warmups to relax the muscles. Students were grouped evenly and took turns going to different stations where a golf coach would teach them one of the three main golfing techniques: driving, shipping, and putting.

On the driving range, students got firsthand instruction to practice their ‘fore’ from Andy, an SCGA Junior coach. Andy demonstrated the proper form and technique to hit the golf ball off a tee. The students watched in awe as Andy put his golf ball into the clouds with his professional swing.

While the students practiced their swing, Andy shared his hopes the new golfing students would learn from the experience, “I’m hoping they develop a lifelong love for the game because it’s not a very popular sport, for younger kids. But I’m hoping that they kind of understand a little bit more and are attracted to it.”

Before the event, Think Together student, Stephen shared how difficult golf will be for him on a scale of 1 to 10. “I would say a six, because like I never went golfing on a general golf course, and I don’t know the basics of golf.”

The students saw firsthand the challenges of hitting a ball correctly, but with guidance and help from the coaches, they were able to achieve a clean swing. Their faces lit up with excitement every time they swung and watched the ball fly. The students rose to the challenge making the reward worth the hard work.

The second skill that students learned with another coach was chipping. Students were managed by SCGA Junior coach Alexis. Here, she taught the students how to chip a golf ball and had them play a game of battlefield to test their newly found skill. The green was covered in groups of hula hoops in various colors that Alexis deemed as “battleships”. Students needed to successfully chip one golf ball into each hula hoop of the battleship to sink the battleship. The students carefully swung to find the perfect balance between speed and direction to chip their ball into a hula hoop.

Alexis shared, “Golf is fun, especially once you get the hang of it. It’s a very love-hate story where one day you’re on top of the world. The next day you are at the bottom, but when you’re on the top, it feels amazing and just knowing like, this is, fun. You can do this. And I belong here.”

As the students collected the balls from the green, Alexis expressed she would never have expected in middle school that she would one day be a golf instructor. As a former Think Together student, she had the opportunity to try a variety of sports like soccer, football, and volleyball. Alexis had the opportunity to try golfing outside of school and was thrilled to see that Think Together was able to offer this experience to the next generation.

The third and final technique that was practiced was putting. It was in this area that students were introduced to the putter, proper gripping form, and finally the putting stroke. Lastly, students put their new knowledge into practice with a friendly game of tic-tac-toe. Students would putt their balls into a different space on a tic-tac-toe grid and get three in a row to win.

The clinic concluded with lunch where the students shared their challenges and successes of the day. Reflecting on the day of golfing, seventh-grade student Arianna shared, “I never really thought of playing golf ever. And coming out here it was completely different. I was like, oh, it’s interesting. So, I tried.”

Think Together is grateful to the LA84 Foundation, SCGA Junior Foundation, and the Whittier Narrows Golf Course for giving kids the opportunity to try new things.