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Golf camp gets Girl Scouts swinging

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2001

Girl Scouts has always had active programs like hiking and camping, and is branching out recently into still active but more trendy pursuits such as orienteering, rock climbing and golf.

The weather cooperated fully two weeks ago when the Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council sponsored a golf camp at Gustavus. Fourteen girls practiced putting, chipping and full swings in order to equip them to play golf with confidence.

"I thought it was a great experience and a great opportunity," said camper Claire Geldhof, 12. "We had a professional fly in from Arizona, and who could pick a more beautiful place to learn to play golf?"

The golf pro was Suzie Cary, a Licensed Professional Golf Association member who teaches at Scottsdale's Continental Golf Course most of the year. She also coached the Scottsdale Community College Women's Golf Team for two years, she said.

"I love working with boys and girls 7 to 17," Cary said. "Most of the girls at the camp had never had a golf club in their hands before. But Wednesday (June 27) they played their first nine holes, and they played best ball scramble and had a great time. We even covered golf etiquette."

"Juneau was my full-time home for 20 years as a teacher and school administrator, so coming to Alaska was coming home," Cary said. She retired as principal of Harborview Elementary in 1999. Gary Murdoch, a Juneau pro, assisted Cary.

Morgan DeBoer, owner of Fairweather Golf Course, has "a good driving range and has worked hard to make this a quality nine-hole course, and it works," Cary said. "I really appreciate what the Girl Scout leaders have done to get girls involved in this sport."

DeBoer began construction of Fairweather in 1995 and opened in 1998. "The camp has been a great time," DeBoer said. "I don't know how their golf game is doing, but they are super, fine young ladies. It's always 'thank you' this and 'thank you' that. They're a real credit to their community and Alaska."

The concept and planning for the camp were in the works for over a year and were truly a community effort, said Kathy Buss, membership and program director for the council.

The camp was funded through a Juneau Youth Activity grant and the Girl Scouts. It was made possible through the generosity of Auk Nu Tours, Wings of Alaska, and two golf pros' donating time and expertise. Morgan DeBoer and his son Ben donated clubs, bags and green fees. Gustavus school principal Ruth Ryan offered the school as a place to sleep and cook, and transportation in Gustavus was provided by Bryan Waverly, Mary Hervin of Glacier Bear Country Inn and Sally McLaughlin.

Golf has long been seen as a male-dominated sport and TAGS saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime to interest older girls in a golf week, Buss said.

Twelve girls from Juneau attended: Claire Geldhof, Cassie Lutz, Becky Braley, Caitlin Bedford, Courtney Wendel, Erin Thompson, Anna Buchanan, Lindsey Kato, Jamie Tompkins, Brenna Heintz, Samantha Currin and Carly Craig.

"It was fun. We learned a lot from Suzie and Gary and everybody else. I thought it wasn't going to be very interesting, but it was really cool," said Carly Craig, 13. At the school's commons, the girls got culinary practice preparing burritos, spaghetti and hamburgers, Craig said.

The girls had a lesson in organic course maintenance, too. One afternoon, Morgan DeBoer demonstrated how he maintains his greens by using ducks to eat weeds and fertilize, thus eliminating the need for herbicides and pesticides. He has planted the greens with a dwarf version of Kentucky blue grass developed in Alaska by the Cooperative Extension Service.

"Everyone involved with the golf program has applauded it and encouraged us to do it again next year," Buss said.

For details, Kathy Buss can be reached at 586-1710.

Ann Chandonnet can be found at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.



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