Category Archives: golf

And the winners are…

Youth Athlete of the Year Joshua Braun, Phoenix Regional Sports Commission President Jon Schmieder, Youth Contributor of the Year Hugh Smith, Youth Contributor of the Year Erik Widmark, Youth Coach of the Year Melissa Belote Ripley.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission announced the winners of the Youth Sports of the Year Awards at a Sept. 24 banquet. The awards recognize exceptional youth athletes, coaches and youth sports contributors for their dedication to positive leadership and outstanding character. The 2011 Youth Sports of the Year Award recipients include:

Youth Athlete of the Year, Joshua Braun

Braun is a senior at Boulder Creek High School, where he is a part of the National Honor Society and is academically ranked 12th in his class of 608 students. Braun currently plays on his varsity basketball team and the AAU basketball team for the Arizona Aces. He has been selected for the Duel in the Desert All-Tournament Team.

Braun was awarded Deer Valley School District Male Athlete of the Year in 2009, has been an All-State honorable mention athlete and was also named the All-Region Most Valuable Player. He helped coordinate various youth basketball camps, actively volunteered his time as a referee and has coached volleyball and basketball teams at his local community center. Braun also dedicates his time to numerous Anthem area events including Emma’s Run and a roadside cleanup effort with military veterans.

Youth Coach of the Year, Melissa Belote Ripley

Ripley spent more than 30 years volunteering as a swim coach. She is currently working with the Rio Salado Swim Club and has been the coach at McClintock High School for the last several years.

Her passion and commitment to the sport of swimming began at a young age and carried her through to the Olympics, where she brought home three gold medals. For the better part of three decades, Ripley has been committed to helping individual swimmers reach their full potential.

Youth Sports Contributor of the Year, Erik Widmark

Known as “Wid” by the community, Widmark has been the driving force behind the Grand Canyon State Games, which is the country’s largest amateur sports festival. Going on its 19th year, the Games offer spirited competition and positively impact more than 400,000 youth participants.

Youth Sports Contributor of the Year, Hugh Smith

Smith has been with The First Tee of Phoenix since 2006 and has been an integral part in growing the game of golf for youth athletes throughout Maricopa County. Through his dedication, the First Tee Life Skills Program has grown to five sites throughout Maricopa County, with 14 staff members and 3,500 full-time students enrolled. The program imparts lessons about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences and how to define and set goals — from the golf course to everyday life.

Hugh has introduced golf into physical education programs in more than 130 schools, which now include over 50,000 students participating in golf-related curriculums.

The winners were honored at the Youth Sports Awards Banquet at the Grand Canyon University Arena. Thirty-four honorees in three categories were recognized and acknowledged.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission is a a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation created in 1988 to “Enrich Our Community Through Sports” by bringing national and international sporting events to the state, promoting existing events and teams and supporting youth sports programs.


Two deals for affordable, summer-long fun

Summer is approaching quickly, and with no more pencils and no more books to occupy your kids as the school year comes to a close, it’s important to have a list of affordable activities up your sleeve. Here are two deals that will keep some money in your pocket and the kids’ idle hands from becoming the devil’s workshop.

Golfing at Encanto Park. Photo by Daniel Friedman.


The “Kids Play Free” program allows golfers 17 years and younger (when accompanied by a paying adult) to play on three City of Phoenix nine-hole courses without charge.

Aguila Par 3 • 8440 S. 35th Ave • 602-237-9601

This par three course located on 35th Avenue, just south of Baseline Road, features the Eagle’s Nest Café, which serves breakfast and lunch from sunrise to sunset.

Encanto Short 9 • 2300 N. 17th Ave • 602- 262-6870

This executive course, located just north of Encanto Boulevard on 17th Avenue,
has views of downtown Phoenix and nearby Piestewa Peak. It is well suited for beginning and intermediate players.

Palo Verde 9 • 6215 N. 15th Ave • 602-249-9930

A challenging executive course located on 15th Avenue, just north of Bethany Home Road. It includes three par fours and a lake.

Have more than one aspiring PGA star? Additional kids can play along for $5 apiece. The offer lasts all summer, from June 1 through Aug. 31. All three courses are open seven days a week, including holidays. Book your tee time at or by calling 1-866-865-GOLF (4653). Just remember to bring plenty of sunscreen and water; it is, after all, summer in the Valley.


If golf in the heat is not quite your forte, beat the heat and head inside for some bowling. The national summer program KidsBowlFree has several participating bowling alleys in Arizona. Although shoe rental rates still apply, by signing up online at, children 15 years and under can bowl for free until Aug. 31st.

Participating alleys include:

Amazing Jake’s: 1830 E Baseline Rd, 480-926-7499

Let It Roll Bowl, 602-944-4401

Cactus Bowl, 1630 South Alvernon Way, 520-327-6561
Fiesta Lanes, 501 W River Rd, 520-887-2695
Lucky Strike, 4015 E Speedway, 520327-4926
Santa Cruz Lanes, 3665 S 16th Ave, 520-622-2186
Tucson Bowl, 7020 E 21st St, 520-747-1363

Check for each alley’s hours of operation. What’s more, the program is partners with the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge (PALA), a campaign by the White House to encourage exercise and active play across America. Bowling is credited as a physical activity that can go towards earning the PALA award. Head to for more information on this program dedicated to promoting active lifestyles. — Robert T. Balint

Phoenix has good news for beginning duffers

Low-cost lessons…

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department is offering low cost group golf lessons for kids at the city’s five courses. Parents can choose from three sessions during the summer — one each in June, July and August — all at prices that make learning how to play golf possible for all.

Beginner classes are available for 5- to-7-year-olds; 8- to 17-year-olds can choose from beginner through advanced classes. Beginner classes and intermediate classes both meet for six, one-hour sessions. Beginner classes cost $25; intermediate classes cost $58 and also include a 30-day Junior Golf Pass for unlimited weekday play. Advanced classes cost $100 per session which includes six, two-hour classes. Class times vary between 7 and 9 a.m., depending on the course.

Register at You can download, fill out and bring a registration form and waiver with you to the course to speed up the registration process. For more information, call 602-262-5088.

…and free rounds of golf for kids

Junior golfers ages 17 and under can play for free — every day, all day — at any of the three city of Phoenix nine-hole courses this summer, when accompanied by a paid adult.

The “Kids Play Free” Program is being offered at:

Aguila Par 3, 8440 S. 35th Ave., 602-237-9601
Encanto Short 9, 2300 N. 17th Ave., 602- 262-6870
Palo Verde 9, 6215 N. 15th Ave., 602-249-9930

The program runs June 1 through Aug. 31 and is designed to encourage families to enjoy golf together and to promote junior golf in Phoenix. The special is good for one youth per adult. If only one adult is present, additional kids’ rounds are only $5 each. Junior participants will also receive a free PING hat while supplies last.

This program is an extension of the Phoenix Youth Golf Program, which offers affordable golf lessons year-round to young golfers between the ages of 5 and 17 and a $30 Junior Play Pass good for 30 days at all Phoenix golf courses on a space available basis.

Learn more at 602-262-5088 or Tee times can be booked online or at 1-866-865-GOLF (4653).