Little Tigers on the RES

Maria Dadgar, Special to Today
5/26/09

Turn off the television and put your video games away, there’s a new game in town. Instead of heading home for an evening of “the usual,” a group of bold, young students from the Lehi Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community participated in the First Nations Golf Association Youth Golf Clinic held April 13 at Whirlwind Golf Course on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

“Our kids had such a positive experience playing golf for the very first time,” said Tamara Delmar, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Boys & Girls Club, Lehi Branch supervisor. “The instructors taught them important lessons that they’ll be able to use off of the course as well.”

The youth golf clinic was a sponsored event held in association with the National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens’ Chairman’s Golf Tournament. Several student participants came from local tribal communities; the largest group was from the Red Mountain Boys & Girls Club.

“Indian kids need every chance to be successful in life,” Stevens said. “We are proud of the work that FNGA does on behalf of Native youth and we look forward to our Native youths becoming successful in the game of golf and in life.”

After a full day of NIGA golf tournament activities, FNGA golf instructors, J.C. Wright, PGA, Lakota Sioux; Steve Maize, PGA, Chinook; Steve McDonald, PGA, Potawatomi; and Jayson Ray, Klamath/Modoc, converged at Whirlwind’s practice range to set up for the two-hour, free youth golf clinic.

After introductions and several team building exercises, the instructors patiently worked with the students in small groups and individually. Stressing safety and fair play, the instructors taught skills on short-game and long-game basic fundamentals. The students played golf and learned valuable lessons. The instructors, who volunteered their time, had no problem keeping the student’s attention while building self-confidence and enthusiasm for the game of golf.

“Throughout the year the FNGA holds monthly all-Indian professional golf tournaments at tribally-owned golf courses across the nation. We’ve given away more than $500,000 in purse money over the past four years to Native professional golfers,” said McDonald, a 25-year member of the PGA, president of Ha-Sho-Be Golf and FNGA Player of the Year in 2006 and 2008.

“On our way to creating Native champions in the world of golf, we always enjoy taking time out of our schedule to work with Native youths in the communities where our tournaments are held.”

FNGA’s mission is to enhance leadership, health, educational and athletic opportunities within American Indian communities. The foundation strives to teach First Nation Indian youth through athletics, the inherent values of respect, honor, integrity, self-esteem, civic responsibility, knowledge, confidence and physical fitness to broaden their skills and create lasting, satisfying lifestyles.

“FNGA’s outreach is national and we are glad to introduce the game of golf to our Indian youth through sponsored golf clinics,” said Ray, FNGA executive director. “We are committed to giving back to American Indian and First Nation communities through workshops that build self-esteem, personal accountability, as well as social and athletic skills.”

Maria Dadgar is an enrolled member of the Piscataway Tribe of Maryland and works as director of development for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development in Mesa, Ariz. Maria is also a freelance writer and can be reached at tribalwrites@gmail.com.

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