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Sarah Unruh ’12

Golf team members teach and learn from young campers

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College golfers went back to camp in Missouri – not for training or competition, but to spend time with kids interested in their sport.

For the seventh straight year, members of the Thresher golf team were at Kids Across America, June 1-5. KAA is a Christian sports camp for inner-city youth on Table Rock Lake near Golden, in southwestern Missouri.

“There were a total of eight players plus myself who went this year,” said Coach Gregg Dick, “which I think is the largest group we have ever had. It was, once again, a great experience for the players to get to work with inner-city youth who have never been exposed to golf.

“They teach [the kids] basic skills, as well as talk to them about life – where they come from, what do they like to do, just anything they wanted to talk about. As a coach, it was awesome to see my players interact with the kids, working and talking with them and hopefully making at least some impact in their life.

“Doing service together is one of the greatest ways to build team chemistry. The guys worked together great and really came together as a team.”

Jaden Schmidt, sophomore from Moundridge, agreed with Dick’s assessment.

“It [made] it easy for all of us to get to know each other and to grow closer as a team,” Schmidt said.

“Also, I realized that a lot of the kids we worked with, who have never been exposed to golf, actually had good form and could succeed with a little practice. I am glad the First Tee program is there for them.”

Each KAA camper can participate in golf as a “specialty” (an area of concentration during the week, with a couple hours each morning) or through a brief introduction during an afternoon or evening.

“I really enjoyed the camp and getting to know all of my teammates,” said freshman Sam Bertholf, Winfield. “The best part about the whole experience was definitely teaching the kids how to golf. I think they really enjoyed that also.

“It was great seeing those kids and how much fun they were having. That is why we were there, to make their experience enjoyable, and I think we did that.”

KAA golf instruction takes place at the Payne Stewart Memorial Golf Complex, funded through gifts of Payne Stewart’s family and other professional golfers to honor the 1991 and 1999 U.S. Open champion and Missouri native, who died in a plane crash in 1999.

“I enjoyed teaching kids about golf who had never had contact with the sport before,” said Drew Trollope, sophomore from Kingman. “They were a huge encouragement, especially when they began to enjoy themselves and show gratitude. I’m looking forward to returning in the future.”

Like Trollope, Ethan Rodenberg, senior from Halstead, found himself receiving from the youth he was serving.

“It was great to meet kids from different backgrounds and see their golf games progress throughout the week. It was a very fulfilling experience,” he said.

“Camp KAA was definitely an-eye opener,” said Alan Joyal, freshman from Valley Center. “Sometimes I take golf and even life for granted. Working with the kids that week changed how I approach my golf game and my life.”

The other three golfers on the service trip were juniors Matt Dewberry, Blanchard, Oklahoma, and Trevor Pauls, Hesston, and sophomore Kyle Regier, Whitewater.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA.

In sports, Bethel competes within the 10-school Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu and www.bethelthreshers.com.