Melting snow is swirling the drains at local country clubs and municipal courses alike, much to the excitement of area golfers. Those happy hackers are no longer just stuffy, old fogies and rich investment bankers. A new, younger generation of golfers, like Caitlin Hora, are taking up this ancient game.
Golf is a game that takes a short time to learn, but a lifetime to master. Hora, who picked up the game before her freshman year of high school, can attest to this.
“It was horrible,” Hora said of the first time she teed up a golf ball. “It was very frustrating.”
Golf is more accessible than ever, with companies now producing cheaper items that cater to beginners. Individuals interested in the game need only go as far as the local big box retailer to purchase their first set of equipment.
Hora got her first set of clubs at age 14, but she wasn’t able to purchase a golf game itself. That took hours of practice. Instead of backing down from the initial challenge, Hora found herself addicted to the game and started putting in the time to improve.
“My dad knew a guy,” Hora said. “They were really close. He started giving me lessons.”
What started out as “just something to do,” quickly became something more.
“I needed to have a spring sport in high school,” Hora said. “I didn’t want to run track.”
Golf filled that requirement and Hora worked her way up on the team and played all through high school. Hora originally didn’t intend to pursue golf at St. Ambrose, but a chance encounter with a coach changed her mind.
“I didn’t intend to play golf here,” Hora said. “I just happened to meet with a coach and she was like, ‘Yep. We can give you a scholarship.’ So I decided to play.”
There also exists a draw to golf that rises above the competitive aspect of the game. Learning to hit a golf ball is challenging, but trying to teach a young child to do the same thing involves even more self-discipline and patience. This is something Hora learned when she became involved with a well-known youth development organization that catered to young golfers.
“I worked with The First Tee program for awhile last spring,” Hora said. “I did a little bit of coaching. There were probably about ten to 15 [children] total, but there were two other pros there as well.”
Hora plans to try to pursue a career in golf after she graduates from St. Ambrose University with her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the end of this term.
“Coaching would be something I’d like to do, but I’d rather play,” Hora said. “I’d probably join the junior PGA Tour in the Quad Cities around here. I’ll still be in the area.”
Since Scotsmen first attempted to whack stuffed chunks of leather in the 15th century, the game of golf has enthralled millions many a weekend over as they try to make their ball find a tiny, tiny hole oh-so-man-yards down a manicured bent grass fairway.
As the final lingering effects of winter give way to the greenest greens of spring, more golfers-in-training will take up this rewarding, albeit frustrating, game. Some may choose to give up after experiencing the initial learning curve that comes from a game like golf, but not Hora. She welcomes the challenge every time she sets foot on the first tee box.
“It’s something different every day,” Hora said. “The weather’s always different. The conditions are always different. You, yourself, are different every day. It still is very frustrating, but every shot is something that I enjoy.”