When Mike Brancati, Assistant Principal at Cave Spring Middle School was just a young boy, him and his oldest brother loved to invent golf courses around their home.
“My oldest brother and I used to have fierce battles at the house. We’d use regular golf balls and gold clubs,” Brancati said. “I had such a good time doing that that I thought it could be applied to a course on the school property.”
So with the blessing from Principal Steven Boyer, he did just that and took great pride in it.
The course he calls, “The Squire Links Golf Course” consists of a 9 hole, par 36 course on the school property. Brancati decided to design a golf course on the school property which would allow the execution of the golf swing with a golf ball. After much exploration he discovered many of the plastic practice balls were not suitable for what they were designed for unless their purpose was to only make contact with the club. So he called up the Cayman Golf Company who produced a restricted flight ball that came a bit closer to being adequate, but was not.
Brancati took into consideration the length of the course, the mass of the ball, and the degree of danger is someone was hit by the ball and with the help of Bob O’Keefe tested a whiffle ball that weighed about 16 grams. Brancati then called the Cayman Golf Company and spoke withe the president of the company Troy Puckett.
And to much of Brancati’s surprise, the company quickly designed him a ball perfect for his golf course.
“I finally had a ball which was compatible with the game I envisioned,” Brancati wrote. “To my knowledge, this 16 gram ball is produced specifically for our school on request.”
“The most significant aspect to the design of the course is that all par 4′s can potentially be reached in one stroke and the par 5′s can be reached in two, using the 16 gram Cayman ball,” Brancati writes in a description of his course.
This is the fourth year that the golf club has been using his course to emphasize accuracy and developing a proper golf swing. 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders are allowed to participate in the program and the golf tournaments are intramural.
Brancati said this year’s program had as few as 27 and as many as 29 students involved at any given time. The program includes five instructional meetings and an invitational Benjamin Franklin Middle School hosts at Willow Creek. Each year Brancati is able to send six of his best golfers to the invitation. There are also four restrictive tournaments held on school property.
“I think the students get a lot of fun out of it. Primarily, they learn a lot about golf. I’m not a professional golfer but there are some things I can share with the kids at the beginner level that is good fundamental golf instruction,” he said. “I think they certainly get that out of it and get a basis rather for developing their golf swing.”
Brancati said he enjoys seeing the students develop and getting involved in the game of golf who may not have gotten involved if they weren’t involved in the program.
And for two of the program’s participants, it has resulted in a love for the game.
Sam Walker, a 6th-grader at Cave Spring Middle School decided to join just because he wanted to see if he was any good at it.
“I haven’t really tried any other sports,” Walker said. “So I wanted to give that a try and it turned out that I was very good at golf.”
He loves gold because all of the courses are unique and vary in difficulty.
“I learned how to swing a golf club, how to grip a golf club and how to judge a golf ball’s speed and how it will move in different directions with the wind and all of those things,” he said. “The only other experience I’ve had was putt-putt.”
Walker also participated in some of the tournament the golf program had and remembers shooting 1 under par on a 9 hole course and 7 under par on an 18 hole course at the Future Knights Championship. And since he found he has a knack for it, he plans on joining the golf team when he gets to the high school.
And 7th-grader Nick Bondurant plans to be on the team also, but hopes to make the JV Golf team at Cave Spring High School next year. He shot the top score for Cave Spring MIddle School during the tournament held this year at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.
“This is going to be my second year in the program,” Bondurant said. “I joined just because I wanted to play golf.”
Bondurant had only played twice before he said.
“Pretty much 90 percent of what I needed to learn, I learned from the golf club, like keeping my left elbow straight during my swing.”