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Golf Gazette: Teaching your kids to golf has its rewards

The first time I played a regulation round of golf was with my father when I was 12 years old. A friend of Dad’s asked if we wanted to join him and his son for 18 holes.

My dad, a good athlete, and an original member of Old Cove Yacht Club in New Suffolk, was much more skilled as a sailor than as a golfer.

I don’t recall much about the day other than the fact that I fell in love with golf. I also realized my dad was much happier sailing and should spend his leisure time on our 16-foot Comet sailboat in Peconic Bay. He taught me much more about sailing than about golf.

My mom, on the other hand, was on her high school golf team. She loved the game. However, raising a family and working as a high school English teacher put the brakes on her golf for a number of years. Retiring to Connecticut, she became president of her golf club and also won a few trophies along the way.

My mom and I first played golf together at Cedars Golf Course in Cutchogue in the early 1970s and we shared many great times in her retirement at Pomperaug Golf Course in Southbury, Conn.

During one of our rounds at Cedars, Mom aced the third hole. I’m not sure who was prouder, mother or son. And I took great pride in showing off my mom’s name on the Cedars Wall of Fame.

I recall as a youngster having a chat with my mom when she said this: “Learn to play golf. It’s a game you can play your entire life.”

Those words, spoken to me over 60 years ago, are so true. I’ve been taking swipes at that little white pill for six decades now and I love playing golf more than ever.

Teaching your children to play golf can be a bit challenging, but also very rewarding, And I promise you this: As you play golf through the years with your child, you will cherish those memories for the rest of your life.

So, how do you begin teaching golf to little ones? The first thing is to purchase an inexpensive set of kids’ clubs. A driver, a couple of irons and a putter will do. Start off at the driving range and explain the different clubs to them. They will grab the driver, but have them hit short-irons at first. Once they are making decent contact, and some good shots, you can let them have at it with the big stick.

After they have made progress and have shown continued interest in playing golf, take them to a par-three course. Make sure you do this when the course is not crowded. The last thing you want is Mr. Grouchy Pants complaining about how slow you are playing.

If your youngster hits one in the sand, allow them no more than two or three whacks to get out. If they are still trying to escape the beach after a few tries, tell them to pick up their ball and put it on some grass. Learning the importance of pace of play cannot be taught too soon.

A par-three course is the perfect place to teach golf etiquette and the finer points of the game. Don’t be in a rush to get them onto a full-length course. Take it nice and slow.

Otherwise, they may become frustrated and lose interest. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

19th Hole. Here are the top 10 ways golf is like parenting:

No. 10: “Shhh! Quiet, please” is frequently heard in each.

No. 9: In either, occasional play in sand and water occurs.

No. 8: There are plenty of hazards to get through in both.

No. 7: Each demands that you stay on course during long drives.

No. 6: Both can get really expensive.

No. 5: Two words: “Gimme! Gimme!”

No. 4: In neither are you ever supposed to quit before 18.

No. 3: Swearing has been known to be a common element.

No. 2: They both look a lot easier on TV.

And the No. 1 way golf is a lot like parenting: Both can confound, bewilder and frustrate you, but you keep coming back for more!

Top 10 courtesy of my daughter, Stacey.

Some of our local courses will be offering junior golf camps this summer: Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue (631-734-6363), Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead (631-369-6500) and Island’s End Golf in Greenport (631-477-0777).