Kevin Corn may be one of the few golf pros who leaves his course to teach. Every Wednesday afternoon you can find him leaving his employer, Innsbrook Public Golf Course just west of St. Louis, Missouri, and driving the few miles to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital.
Teaching golf at a hospital? Teaching golf to kids facing seemingly insurmountable physical challenges? Yes and yes.
And the next obvious question: Why?
“This is always a challenging question for me to answer,” says Corn, who is the head pro at Innsbrook. “The simple answer is after reading an article about a similar program at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, I felt starting a program in St. Louis was the right thing to do. And after talking with a doctor who was a member at the club where I worked at the time, it was also the obvious thing to do.”
That was May 2011. Corn now is approaching his 12th year of volunteering at Ranken Jordan, where he says golf “fits perfectly” with the hospital’s program called Care Beyond the Bedside. “Golf was immediately welcomed with excitement by the medically complex children there and the staff,” Corn says.
To date, about 3,000 kids have swung and putted their way through the program. What’s more, Ranken Jordan has expanded its facility and added an indoor, full-swing golf simulator and an outdoor area with two putting greens next to a baseball diamond. “I like to refer to the area as the Ranken Jordan National Golf Links,” Corn quips.
No matter what you call it, it’s working.
“We’ve had children come to golf who were diagnosed as quadriplegics – and they walked out of Ranken Jordan,” Corn says.
Others have started playing golf from their hospital beds, progressed to their wheelchairs, then from their walkers, next standing while someone holds their gait belt, and then standing with no aid at all. And there have been many times golf helped children stand for the first time, walk again or gain enough strength that they could swing the club on their own.
“Golf helps kids heal in so many various ways that we’ve even used it as part of speech therapy and been able to connect well enough with a patient that he started talking again. And other nonverbal patients have signed to me when they wouldn't do that with their speech therapist,” Corn says. “Every time I’m with the kids is a powerful emotional experience in itself. Simply seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing that golf has played a small role in creating those smiles is an indescribable feeling.”
When asked if there was a particular moment that has stood out to him while teaching at Ranken Jordan, Corn says, “There are so many of these moments that it’s difficult to choose one, or even narrow it down to a few. I’m very fortunate to be involved with Ranken Jordan and to have seen so much of the miraculous work they do. There’s not a day that I leave Ranken Jordan and not feel like I got more out of the time with the kids than they did.”
Golf as ‘a very valuable healing tool’
Interested in hosting golf as therapy at your course?
Kevin Corn says getting involved is easy. “I encourage everybody to reach out to their local pediatric hospital, rehab centers, day treatment facilities, etc., and find a way to use golf to help people of all ages heal faster,” Corn says.
He adds that the National Alliance for Accessible Golf (accessgolf.org) is a great starting point and has reference materials and ideas. Another group, PGA Hope, (www.pgareach.org/services/military) welcomes veterans with disabilities to golf.
“And I am always happy to talk with anyone about working with kids in hospitals,” Corn says. “Golf can be a very valuable healing tool for everyone involved – players and teachers alike. The golf ball doesn't know who is hitting it, and golf pros can use our ability to teach the game to improve the lives of others through the game.”
You can reach Corn at email@example.com.