Kevin Shimomura, the 2013 Aloha PGA Section Assistant Professional of the Year and the 2014 Section Player of the Year, is a PGA Assistant Professional at the Ko Olina Golf Club, in Kapolei, Hawaii.
Just a few years ago, our youth golf program consisted of four, six-week sessions spread throughout the year. We had just over 100 kids participating and we did a good job in keeping their interest. To build upon the “growing the game” mission, I felt it was important to make the youth program bigger. Three years ago, we implemented six, six-week sessions, increasing the opportunities kids had to learn at Ko Olina. The program consists of four levels: Introductory, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, and ages range from seven to 17. The first two sessions usually focus on putting, the third and fourth on chipping, and the fifth and sixth on full swing on the range and course. I entice the kids to want to learn by giving them pretend money as they achieve certain skills challenges and rules and etiquette quizzes. Thanks to promotional items from various merchandisers and donations, I have a prize wall with hats, balls, clubs I’ve cut down, and even some unique items like Natalie Gulbis’ signed shoes. Kids strive to be the best they can be when they know something is on the line. It increases their enjoyment of the sessions, and that’s really what it’s all about at that age.
Increasing from four sessions to six has had a major impact on the number of kids we see go through our program. We had 204 youth golfers learn this year, up almost 100 percent from 2010. Fees range from $150 to $200, with the average paid per student being $170. We have students returning for additional sessions, as they build their purse towards a specific prize on the wall. With $15 from each entry fee going toward the kid’s club account, we ensure an exciting selection of prizes. We see a huge bump in range revenues, as kids are bringing their parents to practice, and sometimes play on the course. As kids age out of the program and get into tournament or high school competition, individual instruction is promoted, and in 2016, we saw about 10 percent of the full class of students meet with one of our four instructors on a one-on-one basis. This is truly growing the game the way we all should do it.