The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 20, 2013

Del Prince, Hickory Grove giving back

In its 16th year, Junior Golf Clinic remains fun experience for everyone involved

JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — As was said in the 2000 film, “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” golf is a game that can’t be won, only played.

And for Greg Del Prince, it’s a game that’s played pretty much every day — and he still loves it.

Which is why Hickory Grove Golf Course, where Del Prince is part owner and director of golf, kicked off its 16th annual Junior Golf Program earlier this week.

More than 30 youngsters took part in the first session of the clinic Tuesday, which will run for five more weeks on Tuesday’s at 10:30 a.m. at the course.

“I’m from this area, I came back to this area and I love it,” Del Prince, a former standout golfer himself at Harbor High School then Glenville State College in West Virginia said. “It’s a wonderful way to get — and keep — young people involved in the game.

“They are our future of the game, so to give them an opportunity to get their feet wet and do so at an affordable cost, which is so important with today’s economy, is very important.”

The clinic, which Del Prince and Hickory Grove member Bob Calender, owner of Calender Insurance, began 16 years ago is indeed affordable.

The six-week course costs but $75, and the youngsters certainly get their money’s worth.

“We run the whole gamut of the game, from the putter all the way through the driver,” Del Prince said. “Come the third week of the clinic, the kids are playing golf every session the rest of the way, so they really get a chance to try to apply what we’re working on with them and showing them.”

Del Prince is being ably assisted by Mark Whitsitt, a past Junior Champion from the state of Texas, and Scott Treen, the former Jefferson girls golf coach and an accomplished golfer himself.

The clinic is a true labor of love for Del Prince, Whitsitt and Treen.

“It really is a lot of fun for everyone involved, even us,” Del Prince said with a laugh. “The kids really enjoy themselves and, yeah, we, as instructors, do, too.”

The community gets involved in the clinic as well, supporting not only the youngsters, but Hickory Grove, in the process. The course opened in 1965.

“We feed the kids once they start getting out on the course and golfing in Week 3,” Del Prince said. “Colucci’s Pizza is a great help because they donate pizzas for the kids, which they love, of course.

“It’s nice to have Colucci’s involved and be part of the clinic, too.”

Del Prince, now in his 28th year as the honcho at Hickory Grove, was the Most Valuable Golfer in his junior and senior seasons at Harbor High School, then moved on to a fine career at Glenville State.

After all these years, the game has become pretty much part of his DNA.

“That’s probably accurate,” he said with a laugh. “It really is nice to wake up, roll out of bed every day and come to the golf course.

“For many people, that constitutes work. For me, it’s something I love.”

Which makes giving back to the game a labor of love.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and watching them learn the basics of the game, it’s like we’re a feeder system.”

Nothing like the clinic was around when Del Prince was growing up in the harbor.

“Not at all, I wish it was,” he said.

Which is why as the clinic celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday, it’s still going strong.

“To get the turnout we do in this day and age when everyone is busy with this and that, and the economy is what it is, means we must be doing something right,” Del Prince said. “It’s something I know we look forward to every year and I know the kids do, too.”

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