New Mexico State University PGM Student Corey Duma offers some advice to a student during Saturday's Youth Clinic. (Photo: The PGA of America)
Youngsters receive more than lessons at special golf clinic
PGA Professionals provided instruction to 90 Native American junior golfers on Saturday, but that was just the start. The youngsters also learned about the value of higher education and the possibilities of a career in the golf industry.
By Bob Denney, PGA.com Contributor
SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. -- With a heritage of building their own success stories in growing the game, some 20 Sun Country PGA Professionals met 90 Native American junior golfers Saturday for more than a traditional afternoon of golf instruction.
The Native American Youth Golf Clinic, hosted at Twin Warriors Golf Club, was preceded by a proclamation by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, whose signed document proclaiming June 27, 2009 as “Native American Youth Golf Day” in the state.
The clinic featured addresses by representative of higher education and the golf industry and a guest lesson by PGA Professional Tim Thelen of College Station, Texas, a two-time National Champion who won the last of his two national titles in 2003 at Twin Warriors.
The clinic precedes Sunday’s opening round of the 42nd PGA Professional National Championship at Twin Warriors and nearby Santa Ana Golf Club.
“This is a day in which we all can be proud,” said Santa Ana Pueblo Gov. Bruce Sanchez, who accepted the New Mexico governor’s framed proclamation. “We are proud to say that we put a program together for all to enjoy this sport. It is an inspiration as a Native American. Golf has so many great values -- teaching discipline, mental stability and strength.
“And, as you can hear from others today, you will find a vast educational system to do a lot more than many people would dream.”
The clinic attendees ranged from middle to high school age, with many having spent several years learning the game in the Santa Ana Pueblo junior program, guided by the father-son PGA Professional team of Robert and Rob Lowry.
Rob Lowry, a PGA Teaching Professional at Santa Ana Golf Club, estimates that over the past 6½ years he has touched some 40,000 students throughout the greater Albuquerque area.
“We have enjoyed some great success, and we have yet to reach many more who would love to be in golf,” said Lowry. “We have worked to gain the funding when past funding has ended.”
Among the attendees was Memoree LeCompte, 16, of Rio Rancho, N.M., a junior-to-be at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque. She not only has lowered her stroke average more than a dozen strokes over the past few years, but also carries a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom.
“I began playing golf at age 8 and really came back into the sport in competition at 13,” said LeCompte. “I got the opportunities to enjoy the game and stay with it from the Santa Ana Pueblo program. The instructors, which include my swing coach Robert Lowry, really help you and support you. I am planning to attend college and stay in golf.”
Craig LeCompte, 48, beamed when speaking about his daughter’s progress through the Santa Ana Pueblo program.
“This program is A-plus,” said LeCompte, formerly of South Dakota and now a certified public account for Native Americans. He is a member of the Sioux Nation.
“You can’t beat it for what these professionals, led by Roger Martinez [general manager and PGA Director of Golf at Santa Ana Golf Corporation] and Robert Lowry have done for the kids of the Pueblo. This program has given my kid so many opportunities. I just wish that the same program was available across the western states for more.”
The clinic was guided by PGA Professionals representing the Sun Country PGA Section, who provided instruction, along with PGA Professional Pat Gavin of Las Cruces, director of the Professional Golf Management University program at New Mexico State University; and Fred Palmer, vice president of national accounts for Club Car Inc.
“While instruction will be a big part of it as well as having fun, the main focus is introducing these kids to the opportunities of becoming a PGA Professional,” says Sun Country PGA Executive Director John Speary.
“I’m not trying to sell you on New Mexico State, but I am trying to sell you on making golf as a career,” Gavin said.
Palmer said that a variety of talents that one may consider not golf-related, are just as much a part of a youngster seeking employment in the golf industry.
“Are you able to draw? Can you show that you are willing to put in hard work to achieve a goal in business?” asked Palmer. “You are needed? If you can pursue a college degree, stay in golf and pursue your passion, you will find more and more opportunities that are ahead of you.”
The Sun Country PGA Section, in partnership with the New Mexico Sports Authority, a division of the New Mexico Tourism Department, dedicated to promoting sports throughout New Mexico, has developed a scholarship program for Native American youths wanting to pursue a career in golf.
Among the graduates of the Native American program at Laguna Pueblo, just outside of Albuquerque, was Corey Duma, who just completed his freshman year at New Mexico State University and the Professional Golf Management University program.
“I learned to play golf at the age of 11, when my little brother fell in love with the game and then I did, too,” said Duma. “Growing up with great teachers and mentors was positive for me and was huge in helping me on the way to becoming a PGA Member.
“I love teaching kids and being at an event like this and teaching at summer junior programs each year. Golf teaches integrity and responsibility. Golf is just like life where it teaches you life lessons. My coaches at the junior clinics growing up in New Mexico and in these programs have taught me so much.”
I have really enjoyed my time at New Mexico State University and I am excited about becoming a PGA Member. My goal is to become a PGA Teaching Professional and help others learn the game.”
Jason Montoya of Santa Ana Pueblo, a senior PGA Golf Management student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, is well on his way to a career in the golf business with his graduation around the corner.
“As a Native American and a PGA Golf Management student, being involved in the clinic means a lot to me,” says Montoya. “It’s promoting the game of golf and also the PGM Program, but more importantly it’s letting these kids know what opportunities are out there for them in the golf business.
“When I graduate, my main goal will be giving back to my community through the game of golf and further growing this sport which has come to be apart of me. Overall, it’s about getting more Native Americans involved in golf and letting those juniors know that there is a career; it’s not just about playing, but there is a business side of golf. That’s what I’d like to see more of, Native Americans in the general manager/head golf professional positions.”
“Isn’t it a beautiful thing to see someone like Jason have the chance to return and teach those who grew up in the same neighborhood and program as he did,” said Speary.
There are seven courses either owned or operated by Native American entities in the Sun Country PGA Section, including Santa Ana Golf Club and Twin Warriors, but very few have Native American PGA members.
Through a team effort in New Mexico, there is hope that Montoya will be a leader for a new generation of Native American PGA Professionals.