Ian Ziska, the 2016 Michigan PGA Section Bill Strausbaugh Award winner, two-time Section Youth Player Development Award winner, and two-time Section Merchandiser of the Year for Resort Facilities, is the PGA Manager and Head Professional at the Katke Golf Course at Ferris State University, in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Several years ago, I began bringing the game of golf into schools during the cold Michigan winter months to introduce the basics and fundamentals to elementary school students. We incorporate this instruction into their physical education classes and train the gym teachers to reinforce the basics of proper set up and swing once we leave. To enhance the teaching and learning experience, I utilize PGA Golf Management University Program students in our instruction program. The PGM students and I separate the kids into small groups or teams. These groups, with about a dozen kids each, enable them to learn with the PGM students comfortably emulating my teaching style and adapting it to their own personality. With 30-minute classes, kids stay focused and PGM students don’t get overwhelmed. The students, generally ranging from kindergarten to 4th grade (though two of our schools go up to 8th grade), learn the game in a fun, encouraging environment and the PGM Students get used to teaching the game from scratch.
Utilizing PGM students in my youth instruction programs benefits three parties: me, the kids and the PGM students themselves. In the four years that we’ve conducted in-school winter classes, youth participation has increased from 1,200 to more than twice that total this winter. As the number of kids increases, so does the need for PGA Apprentices to help with the program. With that many kids learning the game over the winter, we have a large pool of youth golfers to participate in our summer golf program. I bring marketing materials and send notes home to parents so they know what we have to offer year- round. Summer camps are up almost six percent and many kids come back multiple times. As they reach high school age, kids transition from group sessions to private instruction. With an ever-increasing youth program, rounds are up as kids play with family and friends, food and beverage revenues are up, and sales of junior golf clubs are up with over a dozen sets sold in 2016. As kids learn the game, PGA students learn to teach. Helping two groups of “students” learn the game from different perspectives is highly rewarding for me, and a great source of revenue at Katke Golf Course.