By Logan Hall
Tyson York knows Soule Park Golf Course.
After more than a decade of professional teaching at Soule, and many more years playing at the facility as an amateur, he could probably tell you how many blades of grass are on the 18th green.
He also knows the community of people that frequent the facility. In particular, he emphasizes the importance getting the youth of the valley involved in activities like golf. York is currently running Soule’s annual free golf camp for kids. His long-term goal is to provide all of Soule’s junior programs to kids for free.
“Times are hard for people right now,” said York, after giving high-fives to the kids on their lunch break during the camp on Tuesday. “This really opens up the opportunity for kids to get involved in something that can be an expensive sport.”
The free camp that York created three years ago is held once a year for now. The other junior camps Soule Park hosts throughout the year, mostly held in the summer, cost participants $190. He hopes that he will soon be able to offer all of the camps free of charge.
“When people don’t have the time or the money to get their kids out here,” said York, “we give them the opportunity.”
York has many of the resources set in place that are necessary to see his dream come to fruition. The tough part, as is the case with many individuals and organizations that provide free services to the community, comes when trying to find funding for the program. “The big thing is that we need one or two major investors,” he said. “Money is what we really need to get this thing moving forward.”
Running a successful free camp requires many things — most of which cost money — on a regular basis. “I donate all of my time,” said York who also indicated that he has to spend money out of his own pocket to fund the current camp. “But we need to cover the food, equipment, other instructors or helpers, prizes and all of the other camp stuff that makes it all possible. We’re really looking for two or three major donors that can give a thousand to two thousand dollars or more.”
Local golfer Rick Brooks’ 12-year-old son Jessie has been participating in York’s classes, free or otherwise, for the last seven years. Brooks says he has donated to York’s cause and believes that the program is beneficial in many ways.
“It’s great to have something that’s free for the kids to do,” said Brooks after dropping off his son at the course. “It’s always tough getting the money for this kind of thing, though.”
York says that help can come in many forms, and that many who frequent Soule are interested in his junior program. “Our (Soule Park) Men’s Club donated $750,” said York, who grew up in the valley playing golf at Soule with many of the course’s regulars. He added that some of his former students, who now attend Nordhoff High School, are also helping the kids during the camps.
Keeping his resources in the valley is a goal of York who says he has leaned away from trying to land large corporate sponsors. “I’ve only approached local places so far,” he said, declining to name names at this point. “They want to see that the programs are creating something really good for the community. I think a lot of the local businesses are interested in that kind of thing. All it has to do is hit close to home for someone that is looking to make a difference in a kid’s life.”
Matt Murphy, also a teaching pro at Soule, is working as York’s assistant instructor during the current camp. He also believes the camp is a positive force in the community. “This is a good opportunity to get the kids into golf at an early age,” he said. “Then they can decide for themselves if they like it. We give them the tools to help make that decision.”
It seems that everyone involved in the program wants to see it succeed.
“My daughter loves the individual aspect of golf, but it’s great that it’s still a group environment,” said Hayley Slobodzian whose 6-year-old daughter Kaiya is in her fourth round of camps with York. “Having it for free is just such a huge benefit. I really hope that it continues.”
Chris Harvey, head professional at Soule, says there are other benefits that will help ensure that the game, and the course itself, are around for generations to come. “We’re losing golfers,” he said. “It’s important that guys like Tyson and Matt are showing how Soule Park has open arms to the kids of the valley. There has always been a consistency of locals coming out here. We need to keep that going.”
York has lived in the valley for 30 years and began playing golf at Soule Park when he was 8 years old. Since graduating high school, he says he has been at the course “all day, every day,” and says it was always his dream to be a professional at Soule. Relating to the younger generation of golfers, York sums up his thoughts on aspiring young linksman in the valley. “It’s all about the kids and the future of the game,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to give back to them both.”
For more information on Soule Park’s junior programs or donations, call the course golf shop at 646-5633.