Area Golf: Sadlowsky growing golf in schools
When Dave Sadlowsky became the PGA Golf Professional at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge, he noticed something he didn’t like.
“When I first came up here seven years ago,” he said, “I just noticed Ruttger’s specifically didn’t have many kids playing (golf) just casually. My assistant at the time was from Deerwood told me ‘kids up here just don’t play golf.’”
Sadlowsky sought to change that.
The PGA of America’s “Golf in the School” program interested Sadlowsky as a way to help grow the game in his area.
“We have two school districts that we can serve,” he said. “I contacted both schools and through the physical education teachers we go into their class and we see every kid grades kindergarten through sixth grade over the course of three days in each school.”
For three years now, Sadlowsky has taught golf for three days at Cuyuna Range Elementary School in Crosby and Rippleside Elementary School in Aitkin.
This year Sadlowsky was awarded a $4,000 George Waters Memorial Grant to help him in his efforts to promote youth golf at Cuyuna Range and Rippleside.
“The program is a big part for us as PGA Professionals to grow the game,” Sadlowsky said. “Through the PGA Minnesota section we are fortunate to have the Waters Memorial Fund where we can apply for grants and help grow the game to others who might not have the opportunity.”
He went to Rippleside March 10-12 and was scheduled to go to Cuyuna Range March 16-18, but due to the COVID-19 and school closing, he never went to Cuyuna Range.
“Optimistically, if we get back into school and scheduling allows we will try to do it,” Sadlowsky said of still going to Cuyuna Range.
The equipment used is specialized for small children. The clubs are short and light with large heads. The balls look more like a tennis ball than a golf ball. To make it more fun, the students will hit balls toward velcro targets and Hula Hoops.
“What I didn’t anticipate going into the second year, last year, was how much the kids were looking forward to it,” Sadlowsky said. “And how much they remembered from the previous year. I get goosebumps talking about it because that’s why I do it.”
Sadlowsky says he receives letters from teachers expressing their gratitude from him teaching golf.
“They always say they can sense an excitement of the kids when they know we are coming in,” he said.
Along with Sadlowsky, Peter Vukelich, who works at Cuyuna Rolling Hills, and Rich Aulie, the Crosby-Ironton boys golf coach help teach the classes.
“I think it’s important to teach these kids the good game of golf at a young age,” Vukelich said. “Dave’s a great guy. Super laid back. He’s a great storyteller. He knows the game, knows the business and knows how to teach the game. He’s a great guy to learn the game from.”
Vukelich’s role is teaching the students a proper putting stroke.
“He’s an awesome guy to have with,” Sadlowsky said.
While Sadlowsky shopped at Super One Foods in Crosby one day a child ran up to him with his mom saying “hey you’re the golf guy.”
Sadlowsky said the child thanked him for bringing golf to his school because “golf is so fun.”
When teaching, Sadlowsky tries to keep it simple. He’s not giving tips to the students, but introducing them to golf.
“We introduce them to the three smallest shots we have in golf and that’s pitching, chipping and putting,” Sadlowsky said. “There’s a safety element to all of it because we are in a small space with a lot of kids. We help them, first of all, how to hold a club and then very simple things with how to swing.”
Sadlowksy uses letters of the alphabet to make his point. He tells the students their arms make a “Y” shape with the club and to swing the “Y” back and through.
The velcro targets help to make it competitive. Sadlowsky will hand out prizes to students who get bullseyes.
Sadlowsky has two sons of his own, Sam and Bennett, who have interest in golf. Sam, a senior at Aitkin, missed going to the state golf tournament last season. Bennett is a sixth-grader and can be a recruiting tool for Sadlowsky in the elementary school to get others excited about golf.
Moving forward, Sadlowsky hopes to continue to go to Rippleside and Cuyuna Range year after year. He thinks the repetition and familiarity he builds with the students will help.
“Hopefully, a few of them then will start playing the game,” Sadlowsky said. “That’s the ultimate goal is to get them to play the game.”