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River Oaks offers lessons to junior golfers for 20th consecutive summer
98 boys and girls sign up for session
Hughsons Lily Ulrich, 6, and five other beginner golfers received instruction from Dennis Oliveira at the River Oaks driving range on July 3. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Rob Phipps established the River Oaks Junior Golf Program 20 years ago with assistance from veteran teaching pro Greg Silva.

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

Phipps parents, Jim and Carol, passed away in 2009 and 2008, respectively.

"I just didn't lose Rob," said David Phipps, River Oaks' GM for the past five years. "I lost both of my parents. It hasn't been easy. It's been tough."

About 98 boys and girls, aged 5-17, registered for the summer's first four-week session (June 11-July 3). The second session runs July 9-31.

"My brother started this many years ago," David said. "We're going to continue it. It's just another outlet for the kids. We're trying to keep them out of trouble. Ceres has very little to do."

Cost is $30 for So You Are New To Golf (SNAG) participants. Youngsters (4-7) use lightweight golf clubs with over-sized heads and larger golf balls. They focus on coordination, balance and accuracy.

Cost is $50 for beginners, which pays for seven one-hour classes and free range balls Monday through Friday.
Cost is $75 for intermediates, which includes seven lessons, range balls and free play on the front nine.

Cost is $100 for advanced (seven lessons, range balls and access to all 18 holes).

Class sizes are limited to 10 students.

"The kids get more individual attention," Phipps said.

Dennis Oliveira provided instruction to six beginners, including Ceres 10-year-old Brian Ayala, from 9-11 a.m. at the driving range on July 3.

"I'm teaching them the basics," Oliveira said.

"The thing I enjoy the most is hitting the ball," said Ayala, a third-year participant. "I can hit it straight now. I used to miss and hit divots."

The River Oaks Jr. Golf Program year-end tournament will be staged, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Aug. 2.

Lessons will be offered once again in 2014.

Fewer than 30 kids participated during the inaugural year.
More than 8,000 area youth have been introduced to the sport of golf through Rob Phipps' creation.

"I'm real happy," David Phipps said. "We're already in the planning stages for next summer. We're just trying to make the program bigger and better."