Kai Verbrugge of Port McNeill winds up for a hefty swing at the driving range in front of his father

Kai Verbrugge of Port McNeill winds up for a hefty swing at the driving range in front of his father

Kids get into swing of golf

Kevin Black invited parents to bring their kids to the course Saturday for an impromptu day of instruction.

SEVEN HILLS—If this is what happens on a few days notice, imagine what real advertising might accomplish.

Seven Hill Golf and Country Club manager and club pro Kevin Black invited parents to bring their kids to the course Saturday for an impromptu day of instruction, barbecue and play and drew an eager crowd of more than 15 youngsters — many who swung a club for the first time.

“I’ve had it in mind for a while,” said Black, now in his third year as the club manager and course pro. “I finally put it out Wednesday, when it looked like the weather would be OK.”

Utilizing the club mailing list and some subsequent broadcast by members on Facebook, Seven Hills drew a wide mix of young players from both Port Hardy and Port McNeill.

For $12, each of the youngsters got a bucket of balls, tips on the driving range from Black, and a burger or hot dog lunch, with chips and drink, prepared on the outdoor grill by club volunteer Sharon Schraud.

“There are a lot of people here not on my my email list,” said Black. “Hopefully, this will get more on the list.”

The event is part of Black’s broader goal to get more young players out to learn and enjoy the game. Upon moving from Alberta to take the job in 2011, he found a core membership that was intensely dedicated to the course, but also aging.

In an effort to kick-start interest in what he hopes can become a viable junior program at Seven Hills, Black hosted a parent-child fun tournament last month.

Saturday’s drop-in event drew many of the same families, but also some encouraging newcomers.

“This feels great,” he said, looking around at kids as young as five years old. “There are some new faces here. Some of the kids were part of the parent-child tournament, but not all of them.”

Black said he was told after scheduling the short-notice event that it was risky to book the date that graduation ceremonies were being held at both Port Hardy and North Island Secondary Schools. That didn’t stop Sean and Alison Mercer from bringing daughter Brooke and son Matt, shortly after Alison and Brooke presented the CIBC scholarship award at the PHSS commencement ceremony.

“The things is, no matter when you schedule this time of year, there’s always going to be something else going on,” Black noted with a shrug. “We’ll do it again, and the ones who want to come out will be here. With summer coming, there’s also the option of doing it on a weekday.”

Though it included some instruction, Saturday’s event was informal and loosely structured. At any given time, several players and parents were hitting on the driving range while other kids queued up for lunch at the grill and still others took a tour of the putting green.

Black said the most encouraging thing was how many of the kids finished hitting all the balls in their bucket and went back for another. Among them were Kai and Adysen Verbrugge of Port McNeill, who were brought to the course for the first time by their dad, Steve.

“I thought they’d hit a few balls, grab a hot dog and want to leave,” Steve Verbrugge. “But all they wanted was to get another bucket and hit some more.”

Black stuck mostly to the range, where he offered both tips and encouragement. But he made no secret about the ultimate purpose to these events.

“The goal is not to make them better today,” he said of the newcomers. “The goal is to have them go home and bug their parents to bring them back to the course.

“If they want to do it, they’ll get good — and they’ll get good fast.”

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