Golfers from 30 countries go to camp

| Thursday, June 23, 2011

As a 14-year-old who speaks French and English, Austin Simms didn't expect to have trouble communicating with children his own age last summer at U.S. Golf Camps' Ultimate Junior Golf Experience.

Then again, the camp, held the past nine years at The Kiski School in Saltsburg, does attract golfers from about 30 countries.

Nevertheless, the Churchill native enjoyed his first year there and looks forward to returning this summer to the eight-week, overnight camp, which began Monday and runs through Aug. 7.

"The first year, I was scared that I wouldn't know anybody," said Simms, whose roommates were from Spain and Colombia. "As the days went by, I made a lot of friends, but the main thing is that my golf skills improved dramatically."

Boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 18 may attend one or all eight weeks of the camp. The weekly cost runs about $1,500, which includes instruction, golf fees and room and board.

Besides having a private golf course and practice facility on the 360 acres at The Kiski School, the instructional staff -- a mix of PGA/LPGA professionals and college golf coaches -- features some of the best teachers from around the country and boasts a 4-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio.

"There are some great instructors, and all the kids will learn something," said the camp's director of golf, Frank Mantua, a Class 'A' PGA professional. "But we're also trying to make lifetime golfers out of them. To do that, we want to make sure they have some fun."

In addition to actual course and range time, campers can make their own golf clubs and compete to win prizes such as autographed hats, gloves, balls and photos from PGA Tour professionals.

The Ultimate Junior Golf Camp Experiences differs slightly from other summer sports camps because it's a viable option for both novice golfers and elite ones. At camp, golfers are grouped by skill level and funneled into either the fundamental, advanced or elite programs.

"I think one of their strengths is that they cater not just to kids who are golf specialists, but they also tailor their programs so they don't saturate a camper who's just starting out in golf," said Kiski School headmaster Chris Brueningsen.

"They give a gentle and thoughtful introduction to the sport for those without experience. Then for those who are seasoned golfers, they get these top-notch folks with great credentials."

To provide instruction, U.S. Golf Camps relies heavily on video analysis, and uses the V1 Digital Coaching System, a state-of-the-art instructional tool that allows parents to watch and listen to their child's lesson online.

Eleven-year-old Zack Hegedus attended last year's camp and enjoyed watching video of his swing. By doing so, he noticed some extra movement in his feet and spent the rest of camp correcting the problem.

"They did exercises to keep my feet straight when I would swing," said Hegedus, who attends the Valley School of Ligonier. "I did what the advisers and pros said, and I improved."

The camp incorporates a club-fitting system to ensure the correct clubs are being used. Campers get to use a Cobra Launch Monitor to determine ball speed, launch angle, spin rate and exact distances for each club.

"We loved it," said Austin Simms' mom, Eboni. "I really can't say enough good things about the camp. To me, it's worth every penny. It is pricey, but the instruction is top notch."

Additional Information:

Sign up

Golfers ages 9-10 can attend U.S. Golf Camps' Ultimate Junior Golf Camp Experience for one to eight weeks at a cost of $1,500 per week. For more information, visit . Register online, or by phone at 888-874-6535.

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