The Symetra Tour kicks off this week with the Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Course in Mesa this week. Some of the best women golfers will come to The Valley in hopes to ride that road to the LPGA.
Tuesday featured practice rounds for the pros, but also a junior clinic. Ten of the tournament’s participants, as well as volunteers from The First Tee, 2nd Guy Golf, and 2nd Girl Golf programs helped host 270 students from Mesa public schools. The students were able to take some hacks on the driving range and putting green, as well as watch demonstrations by the pros.
“We try to have an event like this here early in the week. (We) get the youth out, get them in front of our players and let them see they are just normal people that started just like they did. Now they’re professional players,” Tournament director Ryan Ronk said. “(It shows) what the game of golf can do for you outside of the sport itself, (and) in life. It’s definitely a mission of ours, and we love it doing every week.”
This rings especially true for pros like Haley Italia, who participated in the First Tee program as a child. These clinics are an opportunity to pay forward the guidance she received growing up in Florida.
“We didn’t have this many kids, so this is incredible to see. They taught us the golf, but they also taught us life skills,” Italia said. “Starting out and having that at a young age, and having people come along our side to teach us that, you don’t know in the midst of that age the impact it has now.”
“It reminds you how you started and where you came from.”
With the help of these organizations, young golfers now have access to the course like they never had before. Symetra golfer Mary Narzisi said she was surprised to hear many of the students participating in the clinic had some experience golfing.
“Golf used to be such a limited field,” Narzisi said. “Now, it’s great that kids can go out and play at courses like (Longbow), and 1st Tee can provide clubs, balls, and a place to play. I think this is a great environment to learn.”
The Gateway Classic runs from the 16th to February 22nd. Admission is free to this event.