Approximately 215 youth representing 35 Greater Milwaukee charitable organizations visited Whistling Straits Monday while getting expert golf instruction by a PGA Professional.
What made this year's PGA Community Relations Youth Golf Clinic – hosted on the Irish Course – that more special is the training that many of the youngsters have received off the course prior to their integration into golf.
Redonna Rodgers, co-founder of the Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship, was one of the leaders of youth witnessing instruction by 25 Wisconsin PGA Professionals and the golf trick shot artistry of PGA Honorary Member Dennis Walters of Jupiter, Fla.
Rodgers has spent the past 19 years witnessing her organization's share of success stories. Working with youth ages 9 to 24, the Center has developed a tradition of ensuring that its participants from a variety of family backgrounds develop strong business as well as social skills.
You might call the Center "Mrs. Rodgers' Neighborhood," a tribute to the passion of its leader.
"I came out of college wanting to help people," said Rodgers, 51, a graduate of Monmouth (Ill.) College, who expanded her own skills in sociology and business. "We have a motto: ‘Be the CEO of Me Inc.' It is our effort to help kids determine how you represent a CEO in life.
"What is so great to see this week is that 15 kids from our program get that extra opportunity to witness an event like a PGA Championship, be exposed to great teachers and make new friends. I think that something like this in our state is so grand."
Rodgers said the organization "promotes good character" among all participants and teams to help locate "early management positions."
"We make sure that all members of our organization graduate from high school and either advance to college or have some structured post-high school education training," said Rodgers. "We have had some wonderful success stories, and we aren't satisfied unless we can help all whom we meet."
The PGA Community Relations Program, which began in 2000 as an extension of The PGA of America's efforts to connect with the host city of a major championship, has incorporated both state and corporate partnerships to benefit 165 Wisconsin-based charitable organizations.
Those charities throughout Wisconsin that will participate in the 2010 PGA Championship Community Relations Program collectively receive an estimated $532,000 in value and tickets to attend the 92nd PGA Championship, Aug. 9-15, at Whistling Straits.
Wisconsin PGA President Ike Bailey, the PGA head professional at Big Foot Country Club in Fontana, Wis., praised the support of 130 PGA Professionals from the 500-plus Section membership that are volunteering this week at the PGA Championship.
"We have a great group of PGA Professionals giving up a part of their day and most of the week to assist in a variety of roles," said Bailey. "Today's Youth Clinic was great, and we actually needed more members this year than in 2004 due to the fact we have a very busy schedule at the PGA Learning Center [presented by American Express. We appreciate the time that they give to this Championship and to many events throughout the year."
Tony Pritchard, 36, a boys' and girls' golf coach at Menomonee Falls (Wis.) High School, said that golf results in "great partnerships"—even among rival schools. Pritchard asked his friend, Brian Scrobel, coach of Brookfield Center High School and president of the Wisconsin High School Coaches Association, to join him in bringing students to the Youth Clinic.
"I thought why not team with my friend, even though we are from rival schools, to bring kids to this clinic?" said Pritchard. "We were here in '04 as spectators, and it is so great to have the clinic right on site. I would not be teaching if it wasn't for golf.
"Those of us at the high school level are not golf professionals, but it is our job to coach and teach. We hold the Wisconsin PGA Professionals in esteem. We look upon this clinic as an opportunity to take back some great tips to our high school programs."
Begun in 2000, the PGA Community Relations Program, inclusive of the PGA Championship, Senior PGA Championship, PGA Professional National Championship and Ryder Cup, has benefited nearly 1,300 charities. Those charities have received funds and credentials to major PGA of America events totaling nearly $20 million.