‘A golfer is born’: Elks Lodge, Boys & Girls Club help junior golfers to dream big

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  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Leonel Cruz takes his shot on the 16th hole at The Links at Moses Pointe during the Elks Lodge, Columbia Basin Boys & Girls Club junior golf clinic on Thursday. Anthony Matzen, from left, director of golf Bill Porter, and William Smoot were a part of the group of 11-13-year-olds participating in the session. INSET: Anthony Matzen hits his shot on the 16th hole at The Links at Moses Pointe Thursday morning.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald

  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Leonel Cruz takes his shot on the 16th hole at The Links at Moses Pointe during the Elks Lodge, Columbia Basin Boys & Girls Club junior golf clinic on Thursday. Anthony Matzen, from left, director of golf Bill Porter, and William Smoot were a part of the group of 11-13-year-olds participating in the session. INSET: Anthony Matzen hits his shot on the 16th hole at The Links at Moses Pointe Thursday morning.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald

MOSES LAKE — They stood on top of the hill surveying the scene below. If it weren’t for the golf club in hand, it might be a picturesque view with a look at Moses Lake in the background on a bright, sunny day.

But for four young lads decked out in assorted attire, the view from the 150-yard marker on the ninth hole at The Links at Moses Pointe stopped at the water between them and one of the finest golf holes in Washington state. Many a golfer has stood in that very spot judging distance, calculating the forced carry. The sparkle of the sun coming off water is almost hypnotizing.

The collection of golf balls by the hundreds visible in the pond made it clear that many had failed to clear the water hazard – fish food as the expression goes – and they collectively rubbed the golf ball in their hands. The balls, along with the clubs and instruction to this point, had been donated by the Elks Lodge, the Columbia Basin Boys & Girls Club, the staff at Moses Pointe. The idea of losing something so precious as a Callaway made things just a bit tense.

Little Adam’s apples in the making worked their way up and down as they visualized the shot in their heads. Moses Pointe director of golf Bill Porter stepped forward.

“Why don’t we try to make a four from here,” he said, knowing the junior golfers, many of whom had never been on a golf course before, were playing a best-ball format. “If two of our shorter hitters lay up, then the long-ball guys can go for the green.”

With that decided, William Smoot stepped forward and the others gathered round with vested interest. Smoot’s 70-yard shot to the right, near the cart signs on the side of the pond, was a made-to-order first shot, safely in front.

Drake Roybal, like most first-time golfers, hit a shot that didn’t leave the ground. It’s all good, it’s all golf. Now the time had come for the long-ball guys to take their best shot on the signature hole at The Links at Moses Pointe.

All that nervous energy was gone as 4-foot-11 Leonel Cruz stepped up, took a couple of nervous practice swings. His swing was a blend of Sergio Garcia and Mariners all-star Nelson Cruz with just enough “grip it and rip it” to make John Daly smile.

He gave a little tug on the baseball cap he was wearing and faced the moment of truth like a seasoned veteran. His shot looked more like an infield fly, “back, back, back,” fish food. But it wasn’t for lack of effort; his eyes said give me one more chance, I can do this.

But the group was on a schedule and it was Anthony Matzen’s turn. Matzen had already had a 120-yard shot that landed nicely on the 17th green earlier in the round. This shot was in his wheelhouse, but it would be one those right place at the right time kind of things.

Matzen, the tallest in this young group of 11-13-year-olds taking part in the Elks Lodge junior golf program, went through his pre-shot ritual, then smoked a nervous golf shot skidding across the ground toward the water below.

Cruz, who was also a first-time golf cart driver, jumped into the cart and drove to the water’s edge to find Matzen’s ball, which had stopped three blades of grass from wetness.

“It stayed up, Anthony,” he screamed over his shoulder. “It didn’t go in.”

That was how the day ended.

For 24 young ones from the Columbia Basin Boys & Girls Club, it was a glorious finale to a two-day junior golf clinic. Porter and his staff split them into age groups of 9-10 and 11-13-year-olds, showed ’em a few things and turned ’em loose to experience something most had never done before.

Smoot stood over his ball on the 17th hole, trying to remember a few of the quick lessons he’d learned over the past couple of days. The swing was sweet, the ball strike pure and it sailed through the air, bounced a couple of times near the green as his playing partners let out an “Ooooo,” and clapped. “That’s your best shot ever,” Cruz said.

A star is born?

Naw, but a golfer never forgets the feeling of pure joy of a well-struck ball. It was more like a golfer was born.

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