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River Oaks Junior Golf Program on tap
Program founded 20 years ago
Rick Kelley signed up all four of his daughters for the River Oaks Jr. Golf program last summer, including Sophia, Cailin and Tori. Hannah Kelley not pictured. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Veteran teaching pro Greg Silva helped establish the River Oaks Junior Golf Program in the 1990s.

Fewer than 30 kids participated during the inaugural year.

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Jr. Golf Program.

"We have one of the greatest junior programs in the state," said Silva, 66. "It's been very successful and going strong. In the last 19 years, 6,000 kids have gone through our program. Some of them have gone on to be golf pros."

The River Oaks Jr. Golf Program is open to boys and girls, ages 5-17.

The first session will be staged, June 10 to July 2.
The second session will run, July 8-30.

Cost is $30 for So You Are New To Golf (SNAG) participants. Youngsters (5-7) use lightweight golf clubs with over-sized heads and larger golf balls. They focus on coordination, balance and accuracy during Tuesday and Thursday night classes.

Cost is $45 for beginners, which pays for seven one-hour classes and free range balls Monday through Friday.

Cost is $65 for intermediates, which includes seven lessons, range balls and free play on the front nine.

Cost is $85 for advanced (seven lessons, range balls and access to all 18 holes).

Signup fees were lowered for beginner, intermediate and advanced players by $5, $10 and $15, respectively.

Class sizes will be limited to 12 students.

"We're encouraging people to sign up early," Silva said. "We lowered the fees because they're the future of golf."

The River Oaks Jr. Golf Program year-end tournament will be staged, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Aug. 1.

Lessons will be offered once again in 2015.

"There were no junior golf programs in the Central Valley 20 years ago," Silva said. "Our program is so unique because we offer so many different classes. We teach everything."

Former Cal State Stanislaus NCAA Division-II All-American golfers Ryan Thornberry and Andy Moren were River Oaks Jr. Golf participants.

"It's gratifying," said Greg, who's been teaching golf for 46 years. "I get to work with all of these junior golfers. I get to watch them blossom. Golf teaches a lot of life skills. I'll keep doing it for as long as my mind and body will let me do it."

For more information about the Jr. Program, call 537-4653.