Danny Baumgartner is committed to teaching kids in Jefferson City a skill they can use for life. He wants them to know that throughout their lives, it can open the door to many opportunities, including college scholarships. That’s why he spends time in both public and private schools exposing kids to golf and touting the benefits of learning the game.
Baumgartner, the owner of Turkey Creek Golf Center, regularly packs up golf clubs, indoor golf balls and other necessary equipment and travels to schools, where he sets up his traveling golf clinic free of charge. By demonstrating how the game is played and allowing kids an up-close and hands-on look at the game, Baumgartner hopes he is able to spark an early interest in golf.
“We want to get them interested in a game they can play life long,” he says.
And his passion for sharing the game with kids doesn’t stop with his visits to schools. This spring, Turkey Creek hosted the first Clubs for Kids Day. The brainchild of Turkey Creek golf pro Dennis Kettle, the event was geared toward kids in central Missouri and made possible by support from the local golf community. In a span of two hours, seven golf pros from clubs around the area gave lessons to 35 kids. All participants were then fitted for golf clubs and left the course with two or three golf clubs of their own.
“It took a lot of work to get it going,” Baumgartner says. “We had to organize a lot of golf pros to be here and get other golf clubs to agree to donate clubs. It was a big effort by the golf community.”
According to Baumgartner, Kettle has been gathering clubs for several years to amass enough to give away. Unclaimed golf clubs or clubs that were left at courses around the area were cut down and regripped to make them kid friendly.
If the free golf lessons and free golf clubs weren’t enticing enough, the event also included some star power: an opportunity to learn how to play golf from Hollywood actor and Columbia resident Lucas Black, who has appeared in Sling Blade, Jarhead, Friday Night Lights and many other television and big-screen hits.
After the success of the first Clubs for Kids Day, Baumgartner says Turkey Creek will host another one later this summer. Although the event requires a large effort from the staff and golf pros at Turkey Creek, he says the hard work is worth it, and the cost balances out in the end.
“If we get kids involved in golf at a young age, they are going to buy more clubs,” he says. “The biggest thing is they are playing a sport they can enjoy all their lives. You have to grow it from the kids. This way, it gives parents an opportunity to get them started without the big expense.”
Turkey Creek’s commitment to kids and the community goes even further. Scott Hovis, executive director of the Missouri Golf Association, is currently raising the funds necessary to build a handicap-accessible nine-hole course on Turkey Creek’s property.
When it is complete, Links for Life will be one of the first of its kind and give those with disabilities the opportunity to play golf on a course that was designed with their needs in mind. Each par 3 hole will be no longer than 120 yards from the back tee, there will be a limited number of hazards, and the greens will have wheelchair ramps and paths. Unlike a traditional grass course, Links for Life will be covered in field turf, which will allow wheelchair access to the greens without damaging the grass.
“This will be a nice outlet for people with special needs to play golf,” Hovis says. “Any ability will have the opportunity to play this golf course.”
Hovis says groups such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Special Olympics Missouri and the Missouri Junior Golf Foundation have already expressed interested in accessing Links for Life.
Much like Turkey Creek’s other projects in and for the community, Hovis says the new course will improve Jefferson City and the surrounding area.
“This will be great for the city, great for the state and great for the game of golf and everyone who is associated with it,” Hovis says.
Girls Just Wanna Play Golf
When Baumgartner is out in the community speaking to kids and their parents about the benefits of golf, he hopes the girls in the crowd are paying attention.
“We try to preach it heavily to the parents and to the young girls,” he says. “If someone wants to get their college paid for, it is in girl’s golf. There are a lot of scholarships out there for the ladies.”
Sports such as volleyball and softball have a large following, which means scholarships are much more limited and competitive. Golf, on the other hand, is still working to attract girls to the game, which leaves the door open to more scholarship opportunities. And, according to Baumgartner, the demand for girls in the sport means there is opportunity for players of all skill levels.
“There are so many schools that are looking to give scholarships away, and there are just not enough girls in the sport,” Baumgartner says. “They are begging for girls.”