Impact of the IRGF
In my history as a golfer, IRGF has impacted me more than anything else. IRGF was a channel for me at a young age to grow into the tournament level of the sport. It is hard for many kids to get past the “I’ve hit on the range a few times” phase and reach that next level of playing. IRGF does that for many kids and it did that and so much more for me.
All I knew before IRGF was Pointe West Country Club practice facilities and golf course. The first benefit I received when I began with IRGF was the diversity of golf courses and practice facilities. It’s very important if you want to excel as a golfer that you don’t always practice on the same speed of a green or play the same 18 holes. Each IRGF event was at a different golf course and because of this, I’m familiar with the 12+ golf courses in the county. At each course I was able to either meet the pro or workers and begin making connections. Going to IRGF clinics let me absorb different perspectives on swings and short game techniques than my coach gave me. Skills challenges were a simple way to give myself a benchmark and see where my game was in total and allowed effective comparison against my peers. Seeing the same kids at each golf event allowed me to grow a network of friends in the sport that I would not have developed if I stayed at Pointe West only.
IRGF was crucial in my transition into a serious tournament golfer. When I was 12, I was involved with IRGF in a “Junior League” team that competed against many other golf groups around the country. My team advanced to regionals in Ocala, and then world finals in Chicago at Cog Hill golf course. After this tournament and course experience, I had a huge confidence boost in my game – If I could play on a famous course in Chicago, anything in Florida should be a piece of cake. In addition, what I learned from IRGF in Vero Beach through events, matches and tournament rounds also grew me into a competitive golfer. They equipped me with the necessary knowledge to compete in large Florida tournaments, and high school golf. Before these rounds, I didn’t know how to play a regulation round of golf and follow the rules, handle hazards, or manage a score card. I was taught all these things through IRGF. I even remember the day at Sandridge on the putting green where I was taught in a clinic how to tend a flagstick for someone. I was also taught etiquette on how to avoid lines of putting, how to maintain silence and respect for players hitting, and how to behave on and around a golf course. Most importantly, I was taught how to respect and interact with adults.
Behavior around adults is a huge and important skill that I believe society is losing, and IRGF works against that. There was not a single time where have seen Roger and not gone up to him to firmly shake his hand, hold eye contact and say, “Great to see you Mr. VanDyke!” My family taught me this, and IRGF drilled it in. For many kids not taught this at home, their experience at IRGF is the first time they are asked to do a task such as shaking an adult’s hand. I remember several times where a kid did not shake Mr. VanDyke’s hand or was scared to, and he was sure to call them back and show them how to properly do it. Furthermore, he enforced respect among players at the end up the round, expecting proper handshakes, and good sported congratulations as awards were given out.
IRGF’s broad range of events covering many skill levels allowed me to stay active for many years. However, after I began high school golf, I stopped my involvement. Instead of becoming a ghost, I stayed around to give back to IRGF through high school as a volunteer, worker, and assistant to Roger at his many different programs and locations. It was a great way to give back to a program that had given me so much. Besides the joy of helping little kids with the game, I was able to complete my school and scholarship required volunteer hours and build my resume through this experience.
For me, golf is a massive part of my history and life. It provides a strong distinction from other people and has been beyond useful for applications to college, clubs, and programs. The lessons I learned from others like Roger and IRGF and by myself on the course have sculpted me into who I am today. I believe every kid should have the privilege of growing up as a golfer, and as a member if the Indian River Golf Foundation.
Corey Stepanek (2018)