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The Palmetto Golf Club hosted an Aiken Hook a Kid on Golf session this week, the second in a series of five weeklong golf camps for children ages 8 to 13. This summer marks the 22nd year of the Aiken Junior Sports Association seminar.

Aiken Hook a Kid on Golf is a local branch of the National Alliance of Youth Sports' national Hook a Kid on Golf initiative.

Last week the seminar took place at Cedar Creek Golf Club. In the following weeks the seminars will be held at Houndslake Country Club, the First Tee at USC Aiken and the Woodside Country Club.

Although registration for this summer's clinics is closed, they will reopen in February 2025 and will be available online at aikenjuniorsports.org.

At Aiken Hook a Kid on Golf, children are introduced to the game, learning golf rules and etiquette, and various skills such as putting and chipping.

AJSA President and Aiken Hook a Kid on Golf Program Coordinator Mark Mahoney talked about what makes this seminar so special for him and his volunteers.

“Our goal is to teach and develop the next generation of golfers,” he said. “We're all volunteers. We love the game of golf and we know what it's done for us and we want to share that with these kids. That's why we're here.”

Mahoney also spoke about the history of Aiken's Hook a Kid on Golf program, noting that it was created just over two decades ago thanks to donations in honor of amateur golfer Frank R. Lock Jr. after his death in 2000.

According to Mahoney, the Aiken clinic has served nearly 4,000 children since it opened, inspiring several generations of future golfers.

“Watching these kids from the beginning to the end of the week, where they go and where they end up, is just incredible,” Mahoney said.

Tom Moore, Palmetto Golf Club's professional emeritus, was teaching at the facility this week and has been a volunteer with the course since its inception. Moore has taught a number of well-known athletes, including professional golfer Kevin Kisner.

“When I first came to Aiken, there were no junior golfers … there were no junior programs,” said Moore, who added that he enjoys watching the students progress throughout the week. “[You] I see kids who can't swing the bat at all on Monday, and on Friday they can not only swing it, but also hit it [the ball] a long way.”

Jim Marra, clinic volunteer and vice president of AJSA, said he has worked in these clinics for eight years.

He said one of the reasons he keeps coming back is because he loves seeing his students succeed.

“It's the smiles,” he said. “It's the one great shot they make that's just mind-blowing.”

He recalled that during the week one of the campers sank a putt from about 25 feet away. “Everyone was just cheering, and that is It.”

Several students spoke about their experiences at the clinic in Palmetto.

Hayden McAlister said, “It was really fun and I really enjoyed chipping and putting.” Although this was her first time attending the clinic this week, it was not her first time playing golf: “I play a lot with my dad,” she said.

Emma McMurtrie said she enjoyed the exciting atmosphere of the clinic.

“You learn golf and have fun doing it,” she said. “And it's not boring, it's not repetitive, you're not doing the same thing over and over again. They try to do something different every time you go to the stations.”

Cameron McAliser summed up his experiences.

“I think it’s really fun when we can try new things every day,” he said.

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