by Katie Drake
When Bob Hope turned 90, he received a birthday gift of 90 golf balls that read ‘Happy Birthday Bob’ on them, to which he commented “Now, when I hit one in the water, the fish will know who to send it back to.”
As children, most of us were involved in some kind of sport. Whether that was a pick-up basketball game at the Y after school, skiing at Shumaker Mountain, or on a team of (you fill in the blank). Sports at any age teaches us so many things. Tenacity, discipline, balance, work ethic, teamwork, leadership, and resilience just to name a few. One sport not yet mentioned is the wonderful game of Golf.
Golf is a sport that many of us don’t learn about when we are children but is one sport you can play for life. Bob Hope and even some old-timers in Little Falls still playing golf at 90 years of age are a true testament to that. You don’t need a team, you just need yourself, a bag and some clubs.
Golf For LIFE
This notion is what inspired a new exciting program that is happening this summer for the youth of Little Falls. Golf For LIFE which stands for: Learning the game. Integrity. Fun! Encouragement. The vision is to have the game of golf inspire kids so that they take up this lifelong sport, which provides a pathway to a healthy, active lifestyle.
Golf For LIFE will utilize the beautiful Henry Pelzer Municipal Golf Course in Little Falls to give our youth, ages 10-17, of all economic strata, an opportunity to learn the game of golf at no cost this summer. (In case you didn’t know, that’s the official name of the “Little Falls Muni”).
This free program will include instruction, equipment, and play. It will have two sessions this July with 18 youth per session, teaching a total of 36 girls and boys the game of golf. Each session will run two consecutive weeks M-F for two hours a day in the morning. There will be three instructors, including Will Grabinski, that will work with six children at a time.
From green to tee, kids will learn to use different clubs and will finish by implementing what they have learned and play the course with their coach.
Golf For LIFE is sponsored by the Blaise & Leslie Carrig Charitable Foundation and the Ken & Lisa Carrig Family Giving Account and has partnered with the Little Falls Youth and Family Center (formerly the YMCA).
When Blaise and his brother Ken asked some local folks to serve on an advisory board, they jumped at the chance to help. That team includes Mayor Mark Blask, David Casullo, Ralph Renzulli, Mark Shephardson, and Nicole Geraty. Blaise said, “These folks have been very generous with their time and energy. We could not pull this off without them.” It takes a village, that’s for sure, and it’s a well-known fact that the good people of this community are generous.
The City of Little Falls is donating free use of the course.
The clubs and equipment have been donated by Blaise & Ken Carrig and Gary & Beverly Zilkowski. The clubs and equipment will stay at the golf course and will be available for free use to youth enrolled in this program during the clinic and follow-up play as well.
How can I help?
In case you think this is pretty cool, and want to support Golf For LIFE, you are in luck! There are several ways to help.
One way to help is to volunteer for the clinic’s post-graduation mentor program. After the clinics, there will be a need for experienced golfers (you don’t have to be great) to volunteer to spend a few hours taking these new golfers out to play the course with you. The goal is to continue to feed their excitement and learning, teach them golf etiquette and share your love of the game. It’s fun to teach others – it makes you remember why you love it. It’s only a few hours of a time investment for you but will be a really big deal to them.
Another way to support the continuation of this program is to put together a team and sign up for the Tom Carrig Memorial Golf Tournament to be held on Saturday, July 31st. Put this on your calendar and stay tuned for more details!
I had the pleasure of talking with Blaise Carrig about his inspiration for Golf For LIFE and the golf tournament in his father’s name. “My dad took up golf late, in his 60’s. He golfed into his 90’s. He used to golf with Maynard Blask, Dick Warren, and their friend Everett. Even when he couldn’t golf that much he would go up and have coffee with them at the course. It was great to see him get outside and be active later in life along with the social aspect. I saw him enjoy that, and I see it for myself.”
Falling in love with the game
Blaise Carrig is someone who didn’t golf as a child. He shared with me his journey of falling in love with the game of golf.
“I came to golf late actually. I’ve golfed off and on through work. But I never really took up golf. I would be invited to play in a scramble here and there, which was fun. I always thought, boy, it would be nice if I had time, to really get into golf. It’s fun, it’s social, and you are outside in some really beautiful places.”
“When I retired, I had some free time to myself. My wife has horses and I found that she would be out in the barn for a good part of the day and I thought, ‘what am I going to do?’ I always said I wanted to take up golf, so I did. In June of 2018, I enrolled in a program that the PGA offers called Get Golf Going. It’s what they call ‘green to tee.’ Now, I’m playing regularly and really enjoying it.”
“Golf For LIFE merges our dad’s love of golf, our newfound love of the game, and the mission of the philanthropy we do, which focuses on getting kids outside, tearing them away from electronics and social media to introduce them to a passion. In Little Falls, you have the asset of this great golf course. It’s important to us that any kid from any economic level can participate.”
Blaise added, “Little Falls was such a wonderful place to grow up and it is so nice to see so many people there doing things to keep it vibrant. It’s unique among the Mohawk Valley with a special energy.”
Nick Regan is the Clubhouse Manager of the Little Falls Municipal Golf Course. He says, “I can’t thank the Carrig Family enough. This is very close to my heart, as my love of golf started with my Dad when I was six. When I was eight, I attended a similar golf program. Some of the best memories of my high school years we were playing on the golf team. Golf for LIFE is going to be great for the game, and the future of the course. I hope that it regenerates interest in getting the High School golf team back again.”
To sign up a young girl or boy ages 10-17 for Golf For LIFE, or to express interest in volunteering your time for the mentoring program you can call Nick Regan, Clubhouse Manager of the Little Falls Municipal Golf Course at 315-823-4442.
The opportunity to highlight the great people of Little Falls, share her personal perspectives and some humor from time to time piqued her interest and here we are.
Just ask her, and she’ll tell you that after growing up in Millers Mills, population 25+ (according to the sign), Little Falls was just the right size. Katie is the oldest of her two brothers and five sisters.
In 2020 Katie and her best friend Chris began their greatest adventure yet in 2020, with the birth of their sweet and sassy son Nolan who makes them laugh every day.
In her free time, Katie loves to snowmobile, golf, hike, and travel.
If you have feedback on one of her articles or an idea for a story, please feel free to reach out to Katie at KatherineDrakeLF@gmail.com, she would love to hear from you.
If this article leaves you wanting more, or you are just bored out of your mind, feel free to check out other articles she has contributed by visiting Katie Drake Archives – My Little Falls.