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Fun on the links
200 boys and girls take summer lessons through River Oaks Junior Golf Program
Rick Kelley and three of his four daughters (pictured from left to right), including Sophia, Cailin and Tori, pose for a picture between holes at the Ceres River Oaks Junior Golf Programs year-end tournament last Friday. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Smoke billowed as Michael Phipps barbecued hot dogs for River Oaks Junior Golf Program participants and their family members Friday afternoon.

"We'll continue it as long as I'm here," said Phipps, the club's general manager for the last five years.

About 200 boys and girls, aged 5-17, registered for the 20th installment of the Jr. Golf Program.

The first session was staged, June 11 to July 3. The second session ran, July 9-31.

Class sizes for So You Are New to Golf (SNAG), beginner, intermediate and advanced players were limited to 10 students.

All four of Rick and Rose Kelley's daughters, including Hannah (12), Tori (9), Cailin (6) and Sophia (5), participated.

"They passed out fliers at the Ceres Street Fair," Rick said. "That's how we found out about it. It's a really good program. It's a little treasure."

Modesto's Paul Assad, a third-year volunteer instructor, enjoyed working with the Kelley girls.

"They're my favorite group," Assad said.

"Paul made it very fun," Rick said.

Hannah, Tori, Cailin, Sophia and 64 other youth competed in the River Oaks Jr. Golf Program's year-end tournament last week. The Friday event got underway at 9 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.

Rick supervised Tori, Cailin and Sophia.
Rose assisted Hannah.

"It's night and day difference," Rick said. "Before, they couldn't hit the ball."

"I like golf," Tori stated. "Mainly what I learned is etiquette and quite a few techniques. The instructors are really good at encouraging kids."

"We need more parents to get their kids involved," Assad added.

Erica Hogner claimed low-medalist honors in the 14-to-17-year-old age group of the year-end tourney.

Jasmine Ryan and Michaela Debos took second and third, respectively.

Austin Pena won the 10-13 flight championship. Jake Nevarez and Marcus Hawley placed second and third, respectively.

Noah Johnson, Zach Looney and Andrew Baluyot finished 1-2-3 in the 6-9 division.

Billy Montez, Delaney Wright and Bailey Wright were the top finishers in the SNAG flight.

Rob Phipps established the Jr. Golf Program with assistance from veteran teaching pro Greg Silva in the 1990s.

Rob was the club's general manager until he died unexpectedly at the age of 44 in December of 2007.

"This is one of the best things Rob did here," Michael Phipps said.

The Kelley family formerly lived in Modesto.

"We're really amazed at Ceres and how many cool things it has for kids," Rick said.