Wouldn't it be wonderful to read about the PGA Championship at Southern Hills every year in our golf edition? Some have suggested pursuing a yearly tour stop for the state.
We would be kidding ourselves. Tulsans would tire of a run-of-the-mill tournament that may or may not feature Tiger Woods and other top names. However, Tulsa never tires of slapping the little white-dimpled ball around T-Town's courses.
Golf transcends generational gaps. Young and old can enjoy the game. Often times they do so together. Tulsa is lucky to have one of the Top 50 Junior Golf Instructors leading the way at LaFortune Park.
"These awards are presented by U.S. Kids and recognize professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the growth of junior golf. As an instructor, it is always nice when an organization of national recognition acknowledges your abilities," said the humble Chris Jarrett.
Now the PGA Head Golf Professional at LaFortune Park Golf Course, Jarrett worked at several of the nation's premier golf courses. His stops include the course known for the Blue Monster-Doral if you're keeping score.
He approaches his second year at LaFortune. Youth golf thrives in Tulsa. The junior program at LaFortune grew by 300 percent last year.
"We have only scratched the surface and I believe we are headed towards having one of the strongest Junior Programs in the country," he said.
He deflects much of the credit to his assistant pros and the Director of Golf, Pat McCrate. He wouldn't be able to offer the patrons of LaFortune the service they deserve without their full support. For the record, I love the use of the word patrons in golf. Thanks Augusta National!
Having the means facilitates the teaching process. Having support from your peers doesn't hurt either. At the end of the day, you better have a damn good strategy to teach today's youth.
"I have found that kids are often a little easier to work with as they come without any previous bad habits.
As for my approach, they are similar. I don't believe in awarding kids that do not put forth the effort they are asked," he explained about the difference between teaching methods for kids versus adults.
Of course not rewarding kids for participation is a novel concept this day and age. It's commonplace for kids to receive a fifth place trophy in their six-team soccer league.
"The kids in our programs are well behaved and there is an emphasis placed upon proper etiquette and knowledge," said Jarrett. I know many adults who could use the same course lessons but I digress.
"We follow a set curriculum that has an awards system and skills challenges that acknowledge the kids efforts. We make it clear to our participants and parents that we do not offer 'goofy golf' or run babysitting camps," he said. The 'goofy golf' reference may or may not be in direct reference to my backswing. Let's just move on.
"We have a student to teacher ratio of 5 to 1 and utilize Head Coach Lance Watson and members of the men's and ladies' golf teams at Oral Roberts University to assist our professionals.
"I have said many times. The kids teach me much more than I could ever teach them. I know several professionals that shy away from being directly involved with the junior programs but I look forward to it more each year," said Jarrett. Imagine being in charge of five kids. Now picture yourself teaching all five kids a skill.
I can't imagine the difficulties faced by a teaching pro working with children. Can't isn't in Chris' vernacular. "Most of my juniors can tell you that I do not allow the word 'can't', which is a product of a lesson taught to me years ago by my mother," he said.
He was eight years old. He was in the midst of one of his first rounds of golf. Ever. He approached a difficult tee shot with a long carry over water. A shot we all fear even as experienced players. Several wet ball later...
"I turned to my mom and told her 'I can't hit it over'. She sent me to the clubhouse and I had to wait for her to finish her round," he reminisced.
After mom finished her round, she sat young Chris down and explained to him that 'can't' never accomplished anything. A powerful message at a young age and one he has not forgotten.
"Even during some very tough times in the years that have followed, I do not remember using that word and most certainly not with her," he said.
He is known throughout the golf community for his "Effortless Power Not Powerless Effort" theory. "I am a firm believer that all golfers would improve their games by understanding and working on the technique required to hit a golf ball instead of trying so hard to influence it with force. I also call the technique 'The American Dream' and tell my students that I am teaching them to try less and get more," he said. Dusty Rhodes approves this message.
He misses the PGA hoopla. "The staff at Southern Hills is world class and that was evident by the praise garnered throughout the golfing community. I also thought it was a tremendous honor for LaFortune Park Golf Course to be selected as host for the PGA Junior Clinic and the Play Golf America Day held in conjunction with the championship that week," he said.
For more information on the youth program offered at LaFortune or other services provided by Jarrett and his staff register at LaFortuneParkGolf.com or SouthLakesGolf.com. "I look forward to seeing you at the course," said Jarrett.
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