Published On: Wed, Jul 20th, 2011

Kathol learns from golf’s masters

Golf legends Hal Sutton, Dow Finsterwald and Billy Casper were on hand to hand out tips to 43 young golfers, including Hartington’s Brad Kathol, (second from right) at the The Ryder Cup Junior Academy dinner at the PGA Education Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida July 12.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Hartington’s Brad Kathol was among 43 young golfers to get a once-in-a-lifetime clinic last week from some of the legends of the game.
The golfers got tips from past U.S. Ryder Cup Captains Billy Casper, Dow Finsterwald and Hal Sutton during the Ryder Cup Junior Academy at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance.

Casper is a World Golf Hall of Fame member and three-time major champion; Finsterwald was the 1958 PGA Champion; and Sutton; the 1983 PGA Champion.
Each took turns during the clinic to teach the students about the intricacies of the golf swing, preparation for both stroke-play and match-play formats, and the many mental aspects of the game.
“This has all been so exciting and you can tell that each of these juniors is eager to learn and get better,” said Sutton, the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain. “There is a true appreciation for what we are doing and I know that these kids have what it takes to be great.”
Finsterwald, the victorious 1977 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, was also impressed by the students’ ability, willingness to learn and improve.
“These kids have pretty fine games already and the changes they need to make are minimal,” said Finsterwald, who owns a playing record of 9-3-1 in the Ryder Cup. “The three of us are here to offer little tips and minor changes that they can take with them when they go back home.’
“We want to see the game of golf grow, and these are the type of people that can make it happen.”
The Ryder Cup Junior Academy offers a full week of instruction to selected juniors.
The Academy, developed in response to recommendations made by past United States Ryder Cup Captains, is designed to provide aspiring junior golfers, regardless of ethnic or economic background, an elite player-development experience with focus on competing in match-play and stroke-play formats.
Casper, the 1979 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain who also competed on a record-tying eight U.S. Ryder Cup teams, was excited to participate and has been overwhelmed by the whole experience.
“This is a special group of juniors who are getting an unbelievable opportunity this week at this Academy,” said Casper, whose 23 ½ points are the most by any U.S. Ryder Cup player. “We are happy to play a small part in it, and hope we can leave a positive impression on them for their future and the future of our great game.”
The trio also fielded questions from students and observed individual golf swings on the practice range.
South Florida PGA Section representative Jonah Wasserstrom of Hollywood, Fla., has only been on site since Monday, but has already learned a great deal about his game, what he does well and what he needs to work on going forward.

He also had the chance to have Finsterwald work with him individually on the practice range.
“This is a great opportunity for me but it’s also a little nerve-wracking,” said Wasserstrom “I want to impress these legends of the game so much, but I know that they are here to help, and they have so much already.”
Organziers say the Academy is a unique, once-in-a lifetime experience that celebrates the passion of the Ryder Cup, while inspiring participants to achieve greatness and to improve their lives through golf.
Kathol began playing golf around age 11. He developed a passion for the game very quickly and began posting some impressive scores. In 2008, he entered a few tournaments and started getting some competitive experience and in 2009, Kathol played the Neb. Junior Golf Tour.
It was during his time on the NJGT that Kathol and his parents heard about the Academy. Based on Brad’s scores on the NJGT they felt he had a chance, so they began the application process.
“The ball got rolling because of the low- to mid-40s Brad was posting on nine holes,” said Brad’s mother Joyce Kathol, “but the application is more complex than your score, we had to include information about his grades and community involvement as well.”
In March, Brad found out he was selected to represent Nebraska at the Academy.
“I was really excited when I found out I was selected,” said Brad, “I’ll get to meet some PGA Players and work with the pros.”