BY ANDREW PUGLIESE
For Your Clifton Park/Halfmoon
JONESVILLE — Hi-5 Sports puts on clinics in a variety of sports for people with special needs throughout the year. But, for the last four summers, one Wednesday in July has been special with professionals from LPGA’s Symetra Tour coming to help with golf.
“It’s great to have the girls come each year,” said Jenn Murphy, former Hi-5 Sports Volunteer Coordinator. “I think it gives our athletes something to really look forward to and they talk about it all year long [saying], ‘Remember when the girls came?’ They also take to what they’re saying more just because they’ve seen me every week for a decade almost now, some of them.”
The Symetra Tour was in the Capital Region for the KIA Fuccillo Championship at Capital Hills in Albany, which ran from July 24-26. Four years ago, Jim Murphy, president of Hi-5 Sports, emailed LPGA media relations because the tournament was overlapping with the clinic hoping for some help. It was easier than he expected.“First year, they sent a couple of girls up because I’m sure they didn’t realize what they were getting themselves involved in. I think they saw what we had going [because] next year we had eight girls,” he said. “Last year, we would’ve had more than a dozen girl but we ended up having to cancel because of severe thunderstorms. So, they’ve been sending more and more support.”
Alexandria Jacobsen was one of the eight golfers to travel to Van Patten Golf Club for the clinic in 2013. This year, seven golfers were able to come support the July 22 event.
“I did it and it was really cool [and] just an eye-opening experience,” Jacobsen said. “Last year, I couldn’t do it because I was in the Wednesday Pro-Am. But this year I could be here and I was really happy to be able to come back. The kids are great. It’s really cool to help out and show them how to do what we love to do.”
On a normal night of golf, Hi-5 Sports usually splits its participants up into 10 stations focusing on the teachings of the U.S. Kids Golf Learning Program including driving, irons, chipping and putting — as well as learning rules and etiquette. When the professionals come, the night is spent specifically on the driving range working on the kids’ swings with different clubs.
The rain last summer kept Caroline Pinegger from being able to help out with the clinic but this year she made sure she was able to come on her trip to Albany. For her, the event gives her and the other players a chance to grow the game of golf.
“[We] try to show them the way as early as possible and help them out,” Pinegger said. “[To] see how motivated they are and they come out here with their perfect golf gear, it’s just really nice to see that there is the future to the sport and there’s still people loving to play it. If I can help in any way, I’d love to do that.”
Jacobsen has a focus on the future of golf, too. She started playing when she was 7 but she recognizes that was not status quo for the time.
“Growing up, for us, it was definitely a boys’ sport, so to see the opportunities, not only for all juniors but for girls too, just to have girls out here experiencing everything,” Jacobsen said. “It’s definitely come a long way from since we were their age.”
The event is a way for the women to take a break from the tour even when out traveling. For a few hours, they do not have to worry about competing and Renee Skidmore sees importance in that.
“I think it puts everything in perspective,” Skidmore said. “I mean, we’re out here playing and I think a lot of the times you can get caught up in just the grind of everything and then you forget it’s about the people you meet, the courses you play and all.”