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Junior golfers pack New Mexico State University's short game school

Young golfers said the Junior Golfer Short Game School put on by New Mexico State University's Professional Golf Management Program helped them improve a neglected part of their game.



Aaron Morin, left, an instructor in the Junior Golfer Short Game School offered at New Mexico State University Aug. 4-8, helps Paige Fox, a sophomore at Coronado High School in El Paso, practice her putting while Natalie Johns, a freshman at Coronado High School, looks on. Morin is a junior in the university's Professional Golf Management Program, which offered the Short Game School for the first time this year. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)


More than twice the number of middle- and high school-aged golfers expected turned up for the school, held Aug. 4-8 on the university's golf course, said Professional Golf Management Program Director Pat Gavin.

While the PGM program has put on its PGM Nike Junior Golf School every summer for the last six years, program director Pat Gavin said this is the first year for the short game school, which gives junior golfers a chance to get nearly one-to-one instruction on their chipping and putting.

Gavin said he got the idea for the school after looking at videotapes of students in this year's PGM Nike Junior Golf School, held at New Mexico State June 23-28.

"Junior golfers like to work on their driving, because they all want to be Tiger Woods and hit the ball long, but looking at the videos I saw that the short game is really a part of the game kids need to work on," he said.

"So we thought we'd offer this school and that we'd get eight to 12 students, which would be a good enough number to kick it off. Instead we got 25, which is amazing, since most of the kids heard about the school by word of mouth," he said.

Gavin said there were 12 girls and 13 boys in the course, with 18 of the students from El Paso, five from Las Cruces and one each from Roswell and Silver City.

Carissa Schwalm, an eighth grader at Vista Middle School in Las Cruces, who finished second last year in the Sun Country Junior State Championship, said she came to the school because she knew she needed to work on her short game.

"It's a nice green and the instructors use their experience to help us," she said.

Shale Gulbas, a seventh grader at Lincoln Middle School in El Paso, who hopes to start Junior PGA play next year, said he has attended five or six other golf camps, but likes New Mexico State's best.

"At a lot of other camps you don't get as much individual attention as you do here," he said.

Twelve students in New Mexico State's PGM program work as instructors in the camp, giving it an instructor-to-student ratio of almost 2-to-1, Gavin said.

Aaron Morin, a junior in the PGM program from San Jose, Calif., said the students make the summer job enjoyable.

"I'm a kids person. They're fun to work with and willing to learn," he said. "I think working with them is a head start to a great career."

The course costs $650 for students who come to Las Cruces and stay on campus in New Mexico State dorms. The fee includes rooms and meals. It costs $375 for students who live off campus and come to the university golf course each day.

For the money, the students get an intensive seven and a half hours a day of instruction for the full five days, Gavin said.

"We start from 8 to 11:30 a.m. at the driving range, putting green and bunker. Then we eat lunch and from 1 to 5 p.m. we're on the golf course. That's almost 40 hours of one-on-one instruction," he said.

At the end of the course every student gets a three-hour videotape of golf instruction and a second three-hour video showing the students playing on the golf course. Plus, the winners of various contests and tournaments held during the school win golf equipment, Gavin said.

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/golf_camp.jpg.
CUTLINE: Aaron Morin, left, an instructor in the Junior Golfer Short Game School offered at New Mexico State University Aug. 4-8, helps Paige Fox, a sophomore at Coronado High School in El Paso, practice her putting while Natalie Johns, a freshman at Coronado High School, looks on. Morin is a junior in the university's Professional Golf Management Program, which offered the Short Game School for the first time this year. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Jack King
Aug. 15, 2002