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Shane Rice Hopes to Grow Golf Locally

Photo by Josh Strope Oglebay golf pro Shane Rice gives pointers on putting during his youth summer camp at Oglebay’s Speidel Golf Course.

WHEELING — Shane Rice has only been at Oglebay for two years, but his vision for where he wants to take the golf program is well underway.

Like anyone looking to grow a sport, Rice knows you have to start young and his major focus has been introducing golf to a new generation.

“We are doing a lot things for our juniors,” Rice said during a break Thursday of his summer camp for ages 7-18. “We have introduced the PGA junior league, a series of competition amongst juniors at different facilities in the area.

“We are running a more robust junior tournament program at all our locations. What is really exciting is we are going to be a First Tee program, effective July 24.”

First Tee is a program for juniors, ages 4-18, that uses golf as a vehicle to teach kids life skills.

“It is a program designed to teach children what they call their ‘Nine Core Values’ and teaching golf to do it,” Rice said. “It is a phenomenal program, backed by tons of research, tons of marketing and has been highly successful around the world.

“I am super excited to bring it here and that has been one of my missions from Day 1 to start it here.”

Rice, of Sewickly, Pa, west of Pittsburgh, has been a golf professional for 19 years. So he has a pretty good idea of what it takes to grow the sport.

With Oglebay’s beautiful layouts and an area that is fond of golf, there isn’t much coercing he needs to do to get the older generation out to the course.

That is why he is trying to focus on getting the youngsters out.

“We want to get the young kids involved, which gets their friends involved and then their parents and other family involved,” Rice said. “That is why I focus a lot on juniors, as well as women. Trying to grow the game for women is another area of focus we are working on.

“Our junior programs have the full support of (general manager) Danny Ackerman, Billy Casper Golf and Oglebay Resort.”

Halfway through the eight-week camp, the results have been positive. There were 21 kids out on the putting green during Rice’s Thursday camp, hanging on every word.

When you think of a golf camp, you think of getting out on the golf course and playing golf. And while that is a big part of Rice’s teachings, he goes a step further.

Other things he focuses on are how to dress, how to make your way through a facility, rules, and golf etiquette.

As for the times where the club is in your hand, Rice stresses setting up your shot and grip.

“We show the full game, short game, putting,” Rice said. “We do stuff with the more advanced kids, showing their swings on tape and identifying patterns in their swings, good and bad.

“We have seen such improvement, and not just in golf performance, but in their confidence. I have seen them not shy away from practicing with their peers.

“You have to find ways to keep them engaged, especially with the younger kids. The moment they become unengaged — and it will happen — you have to let them stop. That is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. The moment they aren’t interested or want to stop for the day, you have to let them do it or you are going to make the game seem more like a job than fun.”

Rice, who is also the women’s golf coach at West Liberty University, uses all the facilities that Oglebay has to offer, instead of just the Par 3 used in years past. He likes the idea of getting them onto the big course to let them experience the faster greens and larger area.

Everyone is different and some are more experienced than others. Rice observes and breaks down their strengths and weaknesses and goes from there. He uses the same teaching techniques on adults that he does with the youngsters.

“As a golf pro, I think our primary goal is to grow the game,” Rice said. “We need to get more people playing, more people exposed. Long-term, I would like to see this junior program begin to grow, the First Tee program begin to grow and see if we can start increasing our rounds here, particularly in women and children. I would like to find a way to get the 25-40-year-olds into the game more. In that age range, people simply aren’t playing whether it is time or money or a combination of the two. The golfing population is on the older side and doesn’t seem to be getting a whole lot younger.”

For those who missed out on the summer camp or want more instruction, Rice will hold a fall camp on Saturdays in September similar to the one currently going on. Dates and times are yet to be determined.

First Tee registration begins July 10 at www.wvga.org. Anyone interested in volunteering for the First Tee program or the fall camp can contact Rice at srice@oglebaygolf.com or contact the golf course at (304) 243-4050.

Replacing a Legend

John Marshall has been a highly successful baseball program for a number of years and a lot of that credit goes to Bob Montgomery.

Needless to say, Mark Cisar has some big shoes to fill. But this was a hire that will draw nothing but praise from me. If anyone can get the Monarchs back up and running, Cisar will be that guy. Athletics director Rob Chavanak and the school board got this hire right.

That being said, it is sad to see Bob go. I have always enjoyed talking with “Monty” before and after games through the years and wish him nothing but the best in the future. One of the truly good guys in our business.

It should be a no-brainer that Monarch Field becomes “Bob Montgomery Field” and let’s hope that is something that happens sooner rather later.

Josh Strope can be reached at jstrope@theintelligencer.net

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