Young golfers a focus at Solheim Cup

by Susan O’Neill
SUGAR GROVE—Members of the Northern Illinois University Golf Team helped golf professionals teach nearly 200 young golfer hopefuls how to perfect their swings at Tuesday’s Ronald McDonald House Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour Junior Clinic. The clinic took place on the driving range of Rich Harvest Farms, the site of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

Damilola Oyeyipo, a student from the Latin School in Chicago, said she received some tips during the afternoon that will help her game. Oyeyipo said she recently began to play golf, and participated in a caddy program this summer at the Park Ridge Country Club.

“It’s really fun,” she said.

NIU Assistant Coach Ashley Anast said the young golfers came to the clinic from all over the country, as well as Canada. For three hours, they worked with golf pros and the NIU “Husky Helpers” at the driving range.

“You could tell they were all having a blast,” Anast said.

NIU women’s golf coach Pam Tyska, an LPGA golf professional for more than 30 years, said that Rich Harvest Farms is home to the NIU team, courtesy of owner Jerry Rich, an NIU alumnus.

“He’s been kind enough to let us practice here,” Tyska said.

In return, the team members help with the Kids Golf Foundation in November and February, during their off season. The Kids Golf Foundation, established in 1998 by Rich and Don Springer, introduces children between the ages of 5 and 15 to the sport of golf, its fundamentals, rules, history and etiquette.

However, Holly Alcala of the Hook-A-Kid-On-Golf Foundation of Illinois said the intangibles are the most important things the program can offer.

Alcala said that often, the youngsters walk away with other benefits such as patience, a boost in their self-confidence, an increase in their ability to concentrate and an understanding of the rules of good sportsmanship.

“If they come away with these other things, we’re just as happy,” she said.

Tyska said Rich places a high priority on introducing young people to the sport, and that to her knowledge, no other Solheim site has had a program of this magnitude for young people.

NIU team members will work as ball spotters later in the week, when the tournament begins, she added.