Professional golf instructor and pro golfer teach at Duncan Park
NATCHEZ — Positive vibes flooded Duncan Park Monday, as professional golf instructors instilled confidence to area children at the sixth annual Norman Puckett Junior Golf Event.
Junior golf instructor Jimmy Headrick, who was one of 13 instructors inducted into the 2012 class of the Master Kids Teachers and was selected as the National Junior Golf Leader by the PGA of America in 2008, added high praise to Natchez along with the junior golfers he’s been teaching in town this month.
“It’s a tribute to Natchez,” Headrick said. “Duncan Park is a special place. They have something here that could go somewhere. With the right continued program, it could be known for junior golf in the whole state of Mississippi.”
Each Monday in June, Headrick and LPGA Class A professional golfer Lee Burke mold young minds in two separate classes, one a mix of 6 to 12 year olds and the other comprised of 13 to 17 year olds.
This is the first time Burke and Headrick have ever taught in Natchez, and both praised Duncan Park Golf Course director Greg Brooking for his enthusiasm and effort to bring them to the area.
As the temperature grew increasingly hotter Monday morning, Headrick finished up his morning session with the younger group, showcasing a technique with a soccer ball that instructs young golfers how to properly transfer their weight with the pivot.
Holding the ball out with their elbows locked, kids swung the ball back and forth, establishing the base of their swing.
“If we can teach them to transfer weight, then we can teach the basic foundation of the golf swing,” Headrick said. “That’s where they get the velocity in the turn.”
When it comes to teaching the minds of tomorrow, it’s all about “dumbing down a complicated game” for Headrick. It’s why he uses a soccer ball, points out the shapes — “L” and “Y” — in the backwards and forward motion of golf swings and why he tells children to lock their arms like uncooked spaghetti.
“These are things they can relate to,” Headrick said. “You find ways to speak to all age groups on their terms.”
Headrick’s goal is very simple — prevent a child from being afraid of failure. In an attempt to accomplish that goal, the New Orleans native points out four positives in every kid and suggests one thing he or she could do better.
As the morning sessions completed, Burke met with a group of 13 to 17year olds on the green for putting drills, mirroring Headrick’s philosophy of using positive reinforcement.
“That’s going in the hole,” Burke praised. “Y’all are good at this. “Technique is good, but we need to work a little bit on distance.”
Burke knows the value of positivity on the course, especially when children are trying to acquire new skills.
“It’s huge, especially if they’re just starting out,” Burke said. “Golf is very complicated, and it takes a long time to learn it. But if they can get the smaller achievements, it’s important so they can keep going.”
Burke and Headrick saw 27 kids participate in the first week and had roughly the same amount the following week.
All smiles on the golf course, Burke was enjoying being around energetic minds wanting to learn. For that reason, it didn’t take much persuading by Brooking to get the Jackson native to Natchez to teach.
“Anytime there are kids involved in golf, I’m there,” Burke said. “It’s important, because there are so many life lessons in golf.”
Parent John Rushing said that’s mainly the reason he wanted his son, Quade, to participate in such an event, as well as take up golf as a sport.
“It’s a discipline,” Rushing said. “This is a sport that requires honesty and integrity, and those are values I’d like to see instilled in him.”
Quade, 11, was thrilled to practice with the older group, and one of the life lessons he’s learned is that sometimes failure is inevitable in life, but you have to work through it.
“This makes you realize that all humans aren’t perfect,” Quade said.
Of course, the life lessons on the golf course couldn’t be taught if not for the parents transporting their children. Acknowledging that, Brooking applauded each parent who did so.
“We’re mostly proud of the parents, because the greatest thing that you can give a child is opportunity,” Brooking said. “We have a public facility here for any junior to come and play golf, and a lot of towns don’t have places like this for youth to come and learn. We are such a wonderful town.”
Headrick seconds that notion, and though he’s traveled across the United States to instruct junior golfers, he recognized Natchez for its devotion to golf, while celebrating the history that Duncan Park provides.
“I hope Natchez knows what they have here,” Headrick said. “It’s the second oldest golf course in Mississippi. There’s history here. It’s going to be 100 years old in two years. I applaud Duncan Park, and I tell you, if you have children and give them self confidence, it’s amazing what they’ll be able to do.”