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By JOEL COLEMAN
Whether it's baseball, basketball, football or soccer, area youth have opportunities aplenty to get involved with and learn to excel in their favorite sports.
Earlier this week, many Starkville kids had the chance to get their first taste of golf as well.
Thanks to a partnership between the Mississippi State Institute of Golf and the Starkville Parks and Recreation Department, kids ages 5-12 took part in a Starting New With Golf (SNAG) junior golf camp from Monday through Thursday.
Each day, there were two sessions of the camp held with approximately 30 kids participating.
According to MSU head golf professional Kyle Cassin, who oversaw the week's events, the camp was a roaring success.
"We've been working closely with the (SPRD) and a lot of the local schools to try and introduce kids in this area who, for no other reason, would be introduced to golf and give them an opportunity to learn the game," said Cassin. "By getting kids involved with golf early on, you don't lose them when they get older. To get them excited about golf early, for us, it was great."
SPRD director Matthew Rye agrees.
Wanting to give kids another activity to pursue, Rye says he was extremely pleased with the SNAG program and the partnership with MSU.
"This being the first year in partnering with MSU, I could not be more impressed with the professionalism and commitment they have for the game of golf and more importantly the youth in our community," said Rye.
Throughout each day's sessions at the camp, participants not only were introduced to golf, but received lessons in the fundamentals of the game as well.
As part of the SNAG program, Cassin says the kids are often having so much fun, they aren't even aware they are being taught.
"(SNAG) is a lot simpler and is a less traditional approach to teaching golf," said Cassin. "It's about giving kids the opportunity to be introduced to the game and develop good concepts without them even really knowing. We play different games and things while we're doing it, but we're actually working on key aspects of the golf swing such as alignment and rotation, without (the kids) realizing it."
As an added bonus to the lessons received during the course of the four-day camp, every participant was able to attend for free thanks to sponsors Travis Outlaw, Cubby Harris Painting, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (Grad Chapter), Rising Star Masonic Lodge No. 31 and Rising Stark Court Heronines of Jericho, Army Navy Pawn Store, Dan Camp, Video Magic and Frank Nichols.
Cassin says the generous contributions of those who sponsored potentially sparked a new generation of area golfers.
"Giving kids the opportunity to participate in golf, and giving them the opportunity to do it free, that allows us to get kids hooked," said Cassin. "By learning golf, it's something these kids can play for their entire life."
Cassin also says he hopes this week's camp was just the beginning of growing the sport of golf in the area.
"This is all a very exciting thing for me and us at the MSU Institute of Golf in general that we got such a big turnout this week," said Cassin. "Hopefully, we can work with local schools and get more and more kids involved in the future. To have this free clinic like this, it's something small that we can do to get kids involved in a terrific sport."