Golfers prepare for friendly competition with SK schools
Eight Lawn Avenue School students are spending some extra time with the assistant principal this spring, but there is no detention involved. Mike Franco is spearheading a golf club program for students in grades 6 through 8, which he hopes will prepare them for high school competition.
"Both South Kingstown middle schools have programs, and when I came here there was some interest," Franco said. "I thought it would be a good, non-threatening way for the kids to meet some kids from other schools and golf."
Franco has set up intersquad matches with the other schools, but so far this season the students are strengthening their own games before heading into competition. All of the students on the team have played golf before and Franco said the club is not intended as a learnto golf program.
"We play golf a couple days a week. They play with members of the school system and members of the community," he said. "I like to send one adult out with a threesome of kids so the adults can help the kids."
The adults' main responsibility is not to give the students instruction on their game, but to ensure the threesomes keep moving, play quickly, show proper etiquette, and are polite.
"Their main purpose is to make sure we have no other impact on the course other than to make people smile," Franco said.
One objective of the preseason practices is for Franco to keep track of the golfers scores and progress. "Right now we are looking to see who the number one through eight are, and that is the way we will play. Our number one will play Curtis Corner's number one and Broadrock's number one. It makes it more enjoyable competition for the kids that way," Franco said.
Currently the eight students who are involved are, Owen Heath, Dylan Vogel, Mike Schnack, Wes Barber, Will Sheppard, Mark Tiexiera and Chris Kopelcheck. Although the team is currently all boys, Franco said girls are certainly welcome and he hopes some of them will express interest.
Heath started playing golf with his father when he was eight years old and sees the golf club as a way to meet new people and golf at least two times a week.
"The thing I really like about golf is that it makes you think ahead about what your next shot is going to be," Heath said. "This is a great way to spend the afternoon and I think it is going to be fun to play against the other schools."
His mother, Mary, said the program is a natural progression for not only Owen, but the rest of the team as well.
"Owen and a few of the other boys have been playing in the Jamestown Country Club Thursday summer program for a few years and they keep getting better and better," she said. "I think going off the island to play will help them gain even more confidence in their game and is a continuation of what they have been doing in the summers."
The other benefit she sees to the program is the way it fits into the boys' schedules.
"It is a nice amount of time for them to play. They get to have some time on the course after school and they are done early enough where they still have time to do their homework and be with their families," Mary Heath said.
They meet at the Jamestown Golf Course on Mondays and Thursdays after school, break into their threesomes and immediately get ready to play.
"The people at the course have been great. They have worked with us to get us out before the leagues come in at 3:30 p.m. We have a window of opportunity between 2:45 and 3:15 to get out and we are done by 5," Franco said.
Franco points out that there is more to the club than the kids just playing golf. He said golf helps students with self-control and encourages better behavior.
"When you do something on a golf course, whether it is something really frustrating or something really well, you can't lose control because you just have to go and do it all over again on the next hole," he said. "It is impressive to me to see how well these kids have handled those situations and they have done nothing but give the town of Jamestown a reason to be proud of them."
The students enjoy playing with Franco and he makes a point to play with each of them.
"It is a treat for me to know them in a different venue," he said. "I get to spend a few hours with them walking around the course, talking about what they like, what they don't like and they get to see me in a different light, too."
Superintendent Robert Power and Principal Kathy Almanzor have been very supportive of the program, Franco said. "They have been 100 percent supportive and they have to be," he said. "With me having to leave at that time, there may be a faculty meeting that I may have to miss or another meeting that I can not make, but they really see the benefit to this."
The program was started on a trial basis, but Franco said he believes it will continue because it has been such a success.
"I am happier than I ever imagined with this program. It has worked out better than I ever thought it could. The community has been very supportive and I can not explain what a great bunch of kids this is," he concluded.