Golf Means Fun in 2013

It's a New Year for us and a New Year for golf. Attending the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions for the first time, Golf Writer Andy Reistetter asked Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Rickie Fowler how they communicate with and how they encourage young kids to play golf. Being on Maui at the Kapalua Resort is an inspiring way to start the year and what these three champions shared with me was quite inspirational. Let's grow the game we love in 2013!
Guan Tianlang, a 14-year from China qualified for the 2013 Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in early November. With a birth date of October 25th, 1998, Guan will become the youngest to play in The Masters at age 14-1/2 years. That nearly 2-1/2 years younger than Italy's Matteo Manassero who was days short of his 17th birthday in 2010. Golfers are coming to the competitive game at a younger and younger age.
What brings young people to golf?
Steve Stricker, who will be 46 come Masters time, believes one of the reasons is that "it's a great sport to learn about what kind of person you are (and) what kind of values you have. You can tell a lot about a person from the game of golf and how they are on the course, how they handle some of the situations. I think if someone is really interested, they can really learn from our sport."
With a leading longevity in the sport that enables him to play a reduced schedule of "10 to 12 events" in 2013, Stricker knows personally golf is "a great sport that you can play late into your life. You know, you continue to play it and learn from it. It's a great sport to go out and play with your friends (and) family. I know I have throughout my career and (that you) continue to learn on a daily basis about yourself when you play this game. So it's a unique sport in that sense I think."
Mahan shared his love of the game first in terms of the flight of the golf ball- "whenever you hit that good shot, it's one of those things where it's like, there's no better feeling to see the ball go up in the air and go right at your target. It's a great feeling to have."
"It's a game that you just never stop improving on. That's what's so cool about it. Every day you're going to experience something new about yourself and about the game, and you know, this game is pretty honest. You can't fool your way around it. You've got to work hard and you've got to be patient and you've got to enjoy it, because you're going to fail more than you're going to succeed in this game."
"But it's so much fun to play and it's done a lot for me. I've met a lot of people and seen a lot of things I never would have seen without golf. I think it's a gateway to a lot of great things if you allow it."
Rickie Fowler, the youngest of the threesome to comment said "I'm definitely not going to force someone to play. I always try and make sure that they are enjoying what they are doing. Because that's kind of the way my parents went about things, bringing me up. When I started playing when I was three, it was because I wanted to do it and I always tried to make it fun."
"I was always around with my buddies at the driving range playing games, chipping contests, putting contests. I definitely try and push kids that way to make sure they are having fun with whatever they are doing, and having their friends be involved and competing against each other, because the competition is definitely the fun part of it. If you can keep it fun and keep getting better, it makes things a lot easier than sitting on the range for eight hours and just beating a ball one after another."
Mahan, who along with Rickie, is half of the "Golf Boys" foursome (with Bubba Watson and Ben Crane) who cut an Oh, Oh, Oh hit single. Hunter was quick to point out that "We are certainly not a band. We are not entertainers. We are golfers. That's all we are." Here is a link:
"When we step on the golf course, Hunter joked, we're men." Guan, will undoubtedly step into history at this year's Masters. There is no doubt that, along with his parents, he has taken to heart some of the perspectives shared by Stricker, Mahan and Fowler.
Fun, growth and competition if you like.
Enjoy the game; it's the game for life!
Merri Daniel and Andy Reistetter are partnering in 2013 to document their experiences on tour. Through their website "Outside the Ropes Entertainment," they will cover a variety of story lines including growing the game of golf, travel golf, the people they meet, and the adventures they have along the way. Enjoy the game; it's the game for life! 

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