A.J. Miressi and Abbie Tiano are young golfers benefiting from a new partnership of sponsors and the generosity of two adults giving back to a Catholic Youth Organization program that has given so much to their families.
A.J. and Abbie attended the Hook a Kid on Golf Summer Golf Clinic sponsored by Ulster County CYO and Green Acres Golf Course Aug. 6-10.
“CYO is great,” A.J., a 14-year-old parishioner of St. Mary’s-St. Peter’s in Kingston who has participated in other CYO activities, told CNY. “It’s like one big family. Most of the CYO people come back for the different activities, and it’s great to take part because we’re all so kind to one another and we have a great time.”
Abbie, 11, added, “I thought it would be something to do and a fun way to learn more golf and get better.”
The golf clinic was looking for a new home a few months ago after Alapaha Golf Center in Kingston decided to start its own youth program.
Walter Gaceta, director of Ulster County CYO, and Brian Boonsteel, owner of Green Acres Golf Course/Ascot Park Driving Range, were connected through a mutual friend and a new home was found. Boonsteel’s two sons played CYO basketball for St. Joseph’s in Kingston.
“We’ve had positive experiences through CYO,” Boonsteel said. “Every person we came in contact with through the CYO basketball program was a good coach and person.
“I’m a community guy. Anything that is positive for kids in the community, I have no problem helping out.”
John Magaletta, a 67-year-old PGA golf professional who ran the CYO program at St. Joseph parish in New Paltz for 15 years, came on board to instruct the young golfers.
“I always loved to work with kids,” said Magaletta. “CYO has a place in my heart, too.
“I hope the interest they have to be here becomes a long-term type of commitment. Golf is a lifetime sport. You play from the time you’re in first grade, if you wish, (until) you can’t walk anymore. There are very few sports like that.”
A.J. and Abbie attended the second week of the clinic, which had seven golfers registered. Ten children participated in the clinic’s first week. The five-day clinic was three hours each morning.
On the first day of the second week, golfers were taught the basics of putting on a putting green, driving the ball off a tee and chipping the ball onto a green at Ascot Park Driving Range.
On the following days, the young golfers spent time on the neighboring Green Acres Golf Course.
Each golfer received a small bag from Hook a Kid on Golf, operated by the National Alliance for Youth Sports, to clip on their golf bag. It included a book of golf rules and etiquette, tees and balls. Ulster County CYO offers scholarships to help golfers and their families who are unable to afford the $200 fee.
“CYO offers a lot of different activities for the kids,” Gaceta said. “Golf is one sport the younger generations are not playing. There is a cost involved and it can be somewhat expensive. We’re trying to make it affordable to teach the kids the game, so in the future if they want to play the game in
school, they have the ability and are not starting from scratch.”
A.J., a rising sophomore at John A. Coleman Catholic High School in Hurley, started preseason practice with his high school boys’ golf team Aug. 13. He shot a season-low 52 in a nine-hole match at Wiltwyck Golf Club in Kingston during the 2017 season and is hoping a week at the clinic will prepare him for the upcoming season.
“So far on the first day, I’m having a great time,” he said.
“I like walking the course and seeing the scenery. You get to chat with friends. It’s a nice time.”
Abbie started playing golf a few years ago and hopes to play it in high school and college. She said the clinic was helpful on the first day in improving her tee shots with a driver and her short game on the green with a putter.
“I just like being outside and feel golf is a lot of fun,” she said.