Thanks to a $37,500 grant from the PGA, Bedford Trails Golf Course is helping 136 kids learn to golf.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
COITSVILLE -- For the past 30 years, George Sertich has worked as a golf professional at Bedford Trails Golf Course.
It helps keep him young. Especially if he's coaching kids.
"When you're teaching a kid and he finally hits one really well and looks up at you and smiles, it just makes your day," Sertich said.
This summer, Sertich, and fellow pro Merle Gora, were around a lot of kids -- 136, to be exact. Bedford started a golf skills program after getting a $37,500 grant from the Professional Golf Association.
"It's designed to assist inner-city, underprivileged, multi-cultural kids in getting started with golf," said program director Phil Clacko.
Application: Bedford applied for the program in April 2000 after seeing it advertised on the PGA's website. It took seven months and a 21/2 hour visit from three U.S. Golf Association officials, but Bedford was approved.
And with the hard part over, the spending could begin.
Clacko bought 25 sets of golf clubs, several putting greens and hitting mats, and hired 12 more instructors to help with the program. The community donated golf balls, tees and old clubs. Some kids even got hand-me-down clubs from relatives. Students in fourth through 11th grade could participate.
"It's great because golf is a lifetime sport," Clacko, 52, said. "You can't keep playing football, basketball, soccer; you're body breaks down. But you can play golf until you're 70, 80, even 90."
Instructors emphasized fundamentals, since most of the kids have never played golf before.
Improved quickly: Beth Petak, 16, played for the first time at the beginning of the eight-week program, which ended today. She improved so quickly that she now expects to play this fall on Campbell Memorial High's golf team.
"I thought it was great," Petak said of the program. "It gave me something to do this summer."
It just didn't always keep her out of trouble.
"One time, my friend Elaine's boyfriend was driving the golf cart when he hit a bump, lost control and almost hit a tree," she said. "But we were OK."
Neither Stephen nor Brandon Suverison had much experience, either.
Stephen, 12, now boasts of hitting a 150-yard drive. Brandon, 10, has also improved. He said golf and gymnastics are now his two favorite sports.
"But I quit gymnastics," Brandon said. "It was too hard."
Clacko has already re-applied for the grant, which must be renewed every year.
"We've received nothing but positive feedback from everyone," he said. "Kids can't wait to get up in the morning to come to the course."