Course Study — Kaam Stenberg makes golf more than just a game

You know some of them are just sitting there.

On the couch maybe. Or they’re on the phone, texting back and forth to someone they saw only an hour ago. Or maybe on the computer.

Or maybe all of the above.

The due date, though, is approaching. Coming quickly for some. Closer by the day, the project getting more difficult by the minute. Maybe they’ll start it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the night before it’s due, like so many other things.

And so they sit there.

Meanwhile, Kaam Stenberg is practically done.

OK, so maybe Stenberg’s entire Senior Project isn’t complete just yet. Some “I’s” left to dot and some “T’s” still to cross. But he’s well on his way.

But Stenberg’s project wasn’t just about getting an assignment done. The Northwood senior decided to take what he knew well and apply it as a community service. With a little help from Chargers golf coach Henry Buckner, Stenberg was put in contact with Stevens Center Executive Director Roger Bailey.

And an idea was born.

“It was an opportunity to coach golf to kids with and without disabilities,” Stenberg says. “The senior project is about giving back to the community, and this is what I wanted to do.”

It’s the fourth and final week of the golf instruction class. Clad in an argyle sweater and khakis to go with saddle shoes, Stenberg, 18, certainly looks the part. He hopes to be a golf professional one day, and will be headed to Florida to begin that path in the fall.

The students — four boys and a young woman — are lined up along the baseline of the Stevens Center gymnasium. They each have a pile of foam practice golf balls in front of them and address the ball on a green artificial practice pad. A 6 iron in their hands and a large garbage can set up about 60 feet away, Stenberg instructs the students to take their shots at striking the garbage can.

He calmly walks up and down the line, checking grips and postures, making necessary tweaks to his students’ setups. The balls get airborne — a sure sign that the students have absorbed much of the instruction Stenberg has given them. Not a small feat considering one student has Down’s Syndrome while others have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorders.

“I don’t know the problems,” Stenberg says. “I don’t need to. It’s not proper.”

But there are problems for some. Ask one of the kids a question, and he doesn’t respond. Not because he’s frightened, or that he doesn’t understand the question, but because he can’t focus. When he does hear the question, he gives an answer that has nothing to do with the subject.

But he knows where his hands are supposed to be on the club. He can aim at the target. He can putt the ball toward the cup, and hit it softer as he gets closer.

He’s getting it.

“I was nervous at the first class,” Stenberg admits. “It was tough getting up in front to talk to the students, especially with their parents watching. But as we got to the second and third classes, I started to feel a lot more comfortable. Now, with the fourth class, it feels routine.”

Some of the kids are 10 and 11 years old, and they have steel-shafted irons in their hands. While there’s plenty of adult supervision around, it does enter the mind that should something go wrong, it could get ugly in a hurry.

Perhaps his soft voice helps. Surely the calm demeanor keeps potential meltdowns from escalating.

Or maybe it’s the fun the kids are having. Smiles are everywhere, much like the practice balls that bound all over the gym. But when they run out, the students follow their instructor and calmly pick the balls up. And why not? There’s a chance to hit again.

“I like it when we get to aim at a target,” one of the 11-year-old boys says. “It gives you a goal. I like goals.”

“It’s been a really fun experience,” gushes a 14-year-old boy. “I’ve learned all kinds of different stuff.”

“Kaam’s really nice,” says a 10-year-old, a toothy smile spreading across his face.

Roger Bailey, who met Stenberg at the gym as dusk descended to open the doors for him, stands in a hallway, the satisfaction evident in his gaze.

“What Kaam’s done has gone beyond his graduation project,” Bailey says. “The program has allowed him to take on significant responsibility, but it’s also given him a stage to shine from.”

So much so that Stenberg’s class may not end with him. Bailey says he would like to continue the golf class in the future, perhaps as another senior project down the line.

“I hope it continues,” Stenberg says. “I think you can reach a lot of people through the game of golf.”

He stops along the line of his young golfers and watches a boy take a couple of swings.

“I don’t think I swing it right,” the boy says.

“You’re doing fine,” Stenberg replies.

“But it doesn’t look right, does it?”

It is the swing of a beginner in the beginning stages of learning the game. The left arm bends, the knees sway and the head has a tendency to pop up.

Stenberg goes through the fundamentals again, quietly, beginning with the grip before moving to an abbreviated backswing and follow-through.

“Everybody has a different way of swinging the club,” Stenberg tells the boy. “And you’re doing just fine.”

He gives the boy another ball.

“Let’s see you hit another one.”

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2 Comments

Filed under Alex Podlogar, Designated Hitter, Golf, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald

2 responses to “Course Study — Kaam Stenberg makes golf more than just a game

  1. Jeremy

    Alex, were you emotionally capable of writing a Duke/UNC running diary? People keep asking me “what’s wrong with Carolina?” And to tell the truth, I don’t even know anymore.

  2. designatedhitter

    The diary would’ve been really short, but full of anger. Clearly injuries have been a huge problem, but Roy should’ve recognized there wasn’t a leader on this team early on and taken them by the hand. This was not one of those “learn on the floor” teams. Also, we better hope the new recruits are a lot tougher. This has been an extremely soft team at every position and through the (lack of) depth chart.

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