WHITESBORO, N.Y. (WKTV) - Tami Dunnigan of Floyd has taught the game of golf to the young and somewhat older for the past twenty years, and she says her favorite pupils are the young kids.
"Because of the excitement on their faces when they do it for the first time, and they look like, 'wow I didn't even know I could do that'," Dunnigan said.
Dunnigan taught most of the past 20 years down in Tennessee, but recently moved back to where she grew up here in Central New York and has set up 'Tami's Golf School' at Hidden Valley Golf Club in Whitesboro.
There, she not only gives individual instruction, but holds summer golf camps for kids ages 5 through 18.
This week, it's the five year olds she's teaching, it's her very favorite camp of the summer. We caught up with her Thursday morning, for day four of the five day camp.
She says that keeping these kids' attention is the toughest part of teaching.
"At this age, you have to make sure it's fun," she said. "The attention span, they told me, when I was going to teaching school, was 20 minutes for five year olds up to eight year olds. So every 20 minutes they're done and on to the next thing. So you better be cycling it every 20 minutes."
One of the tools that Dunnigan uses to keep the children this young interested, is placing balloons that look like rabbits out in the driving range field, that way the kids hit balls to particular targets and try to 'feed the rabbits' with the golf balls.
If they hit the perfect shot, the balloon pops.
"Give them a goal, like hitting the rabbits, then they're tickled," she said. "I just love being around them."
Colin Hill of Whitesboro brought his grandson Jake to this week's camp and says he sees improvement in not only Jake, but all of the kids from day to day.
"They're learning the proper grip, the proper stance and she's teaching them a lot about safety and the rules of the golf also," Hill said.
Dunnigan says her memory helps her remember each and every child's name the very first day of camp.
"I make sure all of my staff gets to know the names the very first day as well, that way each of this kids learn them too. So they introduce themselves to each other," Dunnigan said. "'Hey you' doesn't work. They have to respect each other and give the names."
Hill says he was glad to see that the first thing Dunnigan taught the kids on Monday wasn't about how to swing a club, but rather about safety.
Dunnigan says that safety is very important, especially when talking about kids this young swinging clubs with other kids nearby.
"Safety is the first thing we talk about, always," Dunnigan said. "You know, they're using a tool that can be very, very, very lethal if it's used the wrong way. So we have children that are impulsive, so they'll move without thinking."
As far as the actual instruction goes, parents like Paul Gillander of Utica says Dunnigan is a perfect teacher for kids so young.
"She really brings it down and simplifies stuff for them so they can understand it better," Gillander said.
Gillander says the kids learn the etiquette of the game and just life lessons in general, aside from how to swing a club.
Dunnigan adds, "They have to be gentleman or gentlewoman. They have to learn the rules, they have to not lie, tell the truth, they have to learn all these good things that golf brings to them."
Among all of the boys in this week's camp, there's one girl, Ella George of Whitesboro.
Ella says she doesn't mind being the only girl, she says, "It's sort of fun."
Dunnigan says she would like to see more females like Ella take the sport up at a young age, especially since she says there are so many more opportunities for girls to get college scholarships than there are for boys.
"They have plenty of scholarships that go unclaimed in the United States for girls, and I want more girls to get involved, so they have that money to go to school," Dunnigan said.
When it comes to the difference in her summer camps, Dunnigan says as kids get older, they can sometimes get more competitive.
"I've noticed as years go by, kids can be a little meaner to each other," Dunnigan said. "And that's one thing that bothers me a lot. And I work hard on letting them know, you can play golf, that's why they have a handicap system, you play with all abilities all across the board, and it doesn't matter whether they're good or they're not as good, they're going to play with you and you better be ready to play with them. And you will respect them no matter what it takes."
Dunnigan says that may be a lesson for some adults as well, who may not treat people on the course as well as they should.
So there you go, you too have learned from Tami's School of Golf without even attending a single lesson.
If you would like more information on Tami's School of Golf, or TSOG, head to her website, TSOG.BIZ,
or call (315) 725-3070.