Volunteer instructor John Wyatt helps Caleb Burket chip the ball onto the green at Payson Golf Course June 23.
Bob Purkey hopes to teach kids something they can keep with them the rest of their life — the love of golf. For the second year, Purkey has a four-week opportunity to instill this passion and maybe a little discipline along the way.
Purkey runs Payson Parks and Recreation’s summer golf program at Payson Golf Course.
The program runs three days a week for four weeks, with 35 children, ages 10 to 16, taking lessons.
Most of the participants have never golfed before, and likely would never have the opportunity to without this program, Purkey added.
The program caters to beginner-to-beginner skill levels, Purkey joked.
“Most of these kids have never golfed before and this is the only place to learn the game in Payson.”
The hardest part about the program is keeping the youths interested.
“Their attention span is not that long, and golf is pretty sedentary, so I’ve got to make sure they don’t lose it mentally,” he said.
To do this, Purkey and a handful of volunteers rotate the kids though different exercises including putt-ing, chipping and driving the ball off a tee.
The three fundamentals he stresses are posture, grip and alignment along with etiquette and following the rules.
Nathan Blanco, who works at The Rim Golf Club, donated his time to the program because he loves to golf.
“I really have a passion for golf,” Blanco said.
Harry Parsons, owner of the Payson Golf Course, donates his facility free of charge for the program.
“I cannot stress how fortunate enough we are to have Parsons back the program and give us the facility at no charge,” Purkey said. “We could not do it without him.”
Parsons said he enjoys using the facility to groom future players.
“We are trying to keep the game going,” he said, “because, with golf, you either love it or you hate it.”
Purkey said he got the idea for the golf program several years after coaching golf at the high school.
“I would be at the practice range at Chaparral Pines and see the high school players practicing,” he said. “Then, each week the number of players was dwindling and I asked the coach what happened to the players, and he said they were cut.”
Purkey asked to take the players who were cut and work with them to improve their golf game. After five years, he walked away from coaching and decided to create a summer program to give younger kids the skills they would need to compete later in life.
“It is a great game, and everyone should have the chance to play it,” Purkey said.