Note: PGA Golf Professional Jeff Burey was in Garden City on Nov. 16 to do a presentation to physical education teachers in USD 457. The program is called SNAG (Starting New at Golf) and is a widely-acclaimed program of teaching (physical education) teachers, and coaches, how to teach kids the fundamentals of the game of golf. Burey is the chairman of the Golf in School Committee for the Midwest Section PGA.
By Brett Marshall
For more than 40 years, Jeff Burey has been a PGA of America golf professional, working at such elite golf courses as Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina, site of multiple U.S. Opens and a U.S. Women’s Open.
Now retired from a full-time club professional position, Burey lives in suburban Johnson County and spends a chunk of his time traveling to speak to school district physical education teachers and high school coaches on the merits of the SNAG golf program, otherwise known as Starting New at Golf.
“I’ve always had a heart for junior golf and trying to find new ways to grow the game,” Burey said after his instructional clinic at the GCHS Gym. “The golf pros at courses, private or public, can only reach a certain percentage of kids and if we give P.E. teachers the ability to introduce the game to kids, then we’ve got a good first step in making them a lifetime golfer.”
Burey said that a strong junior golf program at a course might include 50 to 100 youth while on an average day in school, a physical education teacher will reach 300 to 500 students.
“We’ve done a lot of clinics at schools in the Kansas City area, and likely have reached 25 to 30 thousand juniors as a result,” Burey said. “If you look at the entire state of Kansas, we’ve introduced the game to more than 200,000 young people.”
The SNAG equipment was designed by former PGA Tour player Wally Armstrong, a Florida native. It consists of oversized clubs, a colorful collection of rollers, launchers, launch pads, Snag balls, targets of various kinds, a SNAG azoo, a Snapper, SNAG-o-matic, roller brushes and Clock hoops. All have a specific purpose and use in the specialized instruction program.
“Everything we use is safe for the kids and its lighter and has all the characteristics of using a regular (golf) club,” Burey said. “The golf balls are weighted as real golf balls. Everything is designed to allow for teachers to reinforce fundamentals, and there are all sorts of training tools. It’s easy to teach the fundamentals and makes the learning faster.”
Burey said that the 3-hour instruction for the teachers will allow them to have the tools and confidence to teach the game’s fundamentals and apply it to the next day in the classroom.
“Teachers are more qualified to teach than golf pros,” Burey insisted. “They study how kids learn in large groups and once you give them the curriculum, they can use their own creativity to set up the gym for the teaching sessions.”
Burey said the SNAG curriculum was written by PhD. Educators and use word cues that helps the students retain and remember what they are being taught. It’s all due to the cues, Burey said.
Taking the in-school program to an actual golf course is the next step in the educational process, Burey said.
“The inclusion of the PGA local pro is critical for after-school or day trips to the course,” Burey said. “Buffalo Dunes and its professional staff are a great resource for the teacher. The pro should be the first call for the coaches and teachers to see how this is working.”
Getting sets of golf clubs into the hands of youth is also an important step in developing future golfers, Burey said.
“There has to be a buy-in to the program at the school and at the golf course level,” he said. “Some will shy away from it and it fades away. Others will take a strong leadership role which leads to positive, long-term benefits for the kids.”
Burey cited some school districts in eastern Kansas that started the program seven years ago and now have gone from no girls golf teams to having as many as 20-plus girls on the high school team.
“Some girls had never played and it was mostly a social thing for them,” Burey said. “Now, by learning at an early age, they become naturally more competitive and better golfers because they have good fundamentals.”
For more information on the SNAG program, contact the Midwest Section PGA office at www.midwest.pga.com.