Marie Allen is on a mission: get kids on the links
As golf declines worldwide with aging players and fewer young people taking up the game, Marie Allen of Claremont is trying to buck the trend.
Allen coaches dozens of children every year at Claremont Country Club through the Dody’s Kids Golf Program.
This year, about 65 children, ages 5 to 15, spent six weeks of their summer learning the game.
“It’s one of the few sports that you can do from age 9 to age 90,” Allen said. “You can do it by yourself or in a group.”
Claremont Country Club closes the golf course for three hours every Monday so the children can have the course to themselves.
Allen coaches children of all abilities, including those with autism and attention deficit disorder.
Cody Schoolcraft, a former student of Allen’s who now volunteers for Dody’s program, had never played golf before the program. He said the program taught him the fundamentals of the game and helped him become more involved in his community.
“It’s a sport that you can play for the rest of your life,” Schoolcraft said. “It’s not something you have to be good at.”
The program is named after Dody Belski, professional golfer and “icon” to the Claremont community who died four years ago at age 92. She was instrumental in building the Arrowhead Recreation Area and she was a beloved teacher.
Allen has directed the program since Belski died.
Allen said golf teaches respect. The children pick up rubbish on the green, clean golf balls, and learn to replace divots. They learn to respect each other.
“It’s more than golf,” she said.
The program is part of First Tee, an international golf program for children. Fore-U Golf Center in West Lebanon, New Hampshire and Hanover Country Club are also part of First Tee.
Former Claremont Country Club former manager Jean Pederson said the club had about 425 members at one point, with a waiting list when Tiger Woods came on the scene. The club now has about 140 members.
“Right now, all the clubs in the area are basically in the same boat,” he said “They don’t have a lot of people left anymore,” he said.
This past Sunday, the children participated in a field day at the golf course, where they each took home three dozen egg crates full of golf balls to practice at home.
He hopes Dody’s program instills a love of the sport in the younger generation.
“That’s the goal,” he said.
-- KATY SAVAGE (Special to the Eagle Times)