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FOREST CITY | The new summer Junior Golf program, which just concluded at Bear Creek Golf Course, has been a big hit. 

Around 40 youth in grades 3-8 signed up for the 10-week program. Attendance ranged from 30 to 40 kids at each Monday afternoon session.  

"It's fun because you get to meet up with friends," said Alexsia Price, 9, Forest City. "It's just a really fun sport."

The beginning of each session was spent at the putting green, where they learned the proper way to grip their clubs and different types of swings. They also practiced putting. 

Then the junior golfers split up into groups of five to participate in different challenges to win raffle tickets and prizes. 

After that the kids played three qualifying rounds to win pins they could attach to their golf bags. The color of each pin was based on their rank, which each pin won moving them further up in the rankings. 

The program culminated with a Junior Golf Tournament on Aug. 6, sponsored by 3M. The nine-hole tournament was open to all golfers ages 9 to 18, regardless of whether they participated in the Junior Golf program. 

Julie Burkholder, who became the new manager this year at Bear Creek, said she wanted to start the program because "the juniors are the future of our golf course. They are the next generation."

She said she wanted kids to learn that golf is a fun sport they can play for the rest of their lives "and hopefully fall in love with the game."

Other goals of the Junior Golf program are teaching kids golf etiquette and getting them acquainted with Bear Creek. 

Over the summer "I've noticed a lot more kids out here" at other times than Monday afternoons, Burkholder said. 

Bear Creek also started having Family Nights this summer, which draws a lot of families with young children, she said. 

Most of youth in the Junior Golf program were beginners, while a few are on the intermediate level. 

All of them seem to have improved over the summer, according to Burkholder. 

The program definitely will be back next year, she said.

If as many kids sign up as this summer, they will be split into smaller groups so Burkholder can provide more one-on-one attention to the young golfers. 

"I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to play golf but doesn't know much about it," said Braedon Appel, 12, Fertile, one of this year's junior golfers. 

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