Olivia Tapley takes a practice swing as counselor Stephanie Rodrigue looks on during the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program on Friday morning in Lewiston.

Olivia Tapley takes a practice swing as counselor Stephanie Rodrigue looks on during the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program on Friday morning in Lewiston.

LEWISTON — Friday mornings in the summer at Apple Valley have been busy for Chad Hopkins.

The second-year owner of Lewiston’s only golf course has brought back his junior golf camp after it was a smashing success in 2016. On any given Friday when the kids are soaking up the sun on summer vacation there are between 70 to 90 kids roaming the 5,048-yard course as they improve on their game.

He says about 85 percent of the kids also participated last year. There’s also no age limit for the camp, and the kids are put into groups based on their skills.

“The goal is to introduce golf to new golfers, young golfers, also to kids who have played, whether they take it very seriously or they are wanting to enjoy something outside in the summer with their friends,” Hopkins said. “It’s a golf camp geared towards fun. There’s definitely some instruction and we are also working with them on their etiquette and helping them grow as a person.”

Why the high number of kids? He went direct to the consumer — in this case their parents.

“We advertise on our Facebook page and the word of mouth is a big factor,” Hopkins said. “We also got the Lewiston and Auburn rec centers involved as well this year. Nowadays, social media is king.”

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Hopkins has posted some videos and photos from some of the clinics on the course’s Facebook page.

The success from last year camp also saw junior memberships grow at the club. When Hopkins took ownership of the course, there were no junior members. This season he has around 35 or so kids who hold a membership at the club. Hopkins directly correlates that to the camp.

At the beginning of each week, lessons are given for the first hour from 9-10 a.m. before a lunch/snack break. After that, the kids go on the course with Chad or a camp counselor for supervised golf.

The counselors come from all walks of life.

“It’s a variety. We have some members that have stepped up, we have some kids that have been under my instruction in the past that have stepped up,” Hopkins said. “We have some high school kids that really enjoy the game of golf, they have stepped up. We have a lot of parents, that’s huge, and some of my employees as well.”

The junior golfers have some counselors they can strive to be like, such as Stephanie Rodrigue, a soon-to-be-senior at Lewiston and one of the top junior girl golfers in the state. Valerie Doucette, who will be a junior at Lisbon and plays with the St. Dom’s golf team, is also helping Hopkins out.

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Neil Larochelle, 14, was recruited by Hopkins to be a counselor.

He enjoys teaching the kids the game and he knows it may be impacting thes kids for the rest of their lives.

“I like it, I get to teach kids golf, teach them more golf,” Larochelle, who has been playing golf since he was 9, said. “There’s some kids who don’t know golf, they just think, ‘Oh, it’s just golf,’ they play football or baseball and stuff. Golf is such a good sport you can play until you are 80, or 90 even. It’s a sport you can play the rest of your life.”

The biggest thing Larochelle and Hopkins like to teach the kids is the short game.

“Kids who didn’t know how to grip a club last year or the beginning of this year, now we are watching them taking full swings and hitting some of the longest drives of their lives,” Hopkins said. “Their short game is 200 percent better. I really focus on the short game, the chipping, the putting, all of them, their short game has vastly improved. Anyone who plays golf knows 60 to 65 percent of the game is played from 40 yards and in.”

Hopkins likes to work from the green to the tee, something he says more golf instructors should do.

Larochelle said they teach the kids on how to lower their scores and what type of clubs to use in a specific situation.

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Counselor Valerie Doucette holds the flag clear as golfers Avery Elliot, 6, Klara Cloutier, 8, Elsie Cloutier, 6 and Peyton Denie, 7, eye up their putts during the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program on Friday morning in Lewiston.

Counselor Valerie Doucette holds the flag clear as golfers Avery Elliot, 6, Klara Cloutier, 8, Elsie Cloutier, 6 and Peyton Denie, 7, eye up their putts during the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program on Friday morning in Lewiston.

Elsie Cloutier, 6, gets some advice from counselor Valerie Doucette during the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program in Lewiston on Friday morning.

Elsie Cloutier, 6, gets some advice from counselor Valerie Doucette during the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program in Lewiston on Friday morning.

Avery Elliot, 6, looks down the fairway after taking her shot at the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program in Lewiston on Friday morning.

Avery Elliot, 6, looks down the fairway after taking her shot at the Apple Valley Golf Course junior golf program in Lewiston on Friday morning.

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