Junior golfers get one-of-a-kind training center

Titleist’s program set to open in two weeks

The Titleist Junior Performance Center for junior golfers will open up at the Grand Del Mar on Sept. 21, the only facility of its kind in the country. The goal of the center is to teach young athletes the skills for long-term success on the golf course and beyond.

The junior performance center is unique in that it deviates from traditional methods of teaching golf to youngsters. Titleist’s program is based on the principles of long-term athlete development, rooted in understanding how the body interacts with the brain at different stages of life.

The center is on a scenic 22,000-square-foot space on the Grand Del Mar’s elevated driving range tee box.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Shawn Cox, the Grand’s director of golf. “We think kids will come from all over the world to experience this program.”

Leading the way at the new center is director Milo Bryant, a self-proclaimed “38-year-old kid” who has been a fitness professional and trainer since 1991. Bryant will carry out Titleist’s view that there is a better, more efficient way to build a golfer.

Bryant said that often in golf lessons, children get bored endlessly hitting balls at a driving range.

Bryant said golfers such as Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus point to training that had them hitting balls as hard as they could when they were young, not worrying so much about placement.

In that way, they develop strength and speed at a young age, laying the groundwork to layer on specific skills as they mature.

“When they leave me and go to the golf pro, they’re like a machine ready to be guided, " Bryant said. “The pros don’t have to worry about balance, strength and speed.”

At the center, children ages 5 to 12 work their way through stations that teach skills such as kicking, hitting, throwing, putting, wrist release, chipping and catching.

At one station, Hula-Hoops are set up on a slope and the children have to roll a big ball to try and get into the hoop - a sneaky way of teaching them how to read the greens.

Youngsters will also learn to find their way out of bunkers with different size balls and learn how to two-putt with a game involving a giant putter and tennis balls. As they move through the levels, they earn different color hats.

Bryant said this kind of training is especially important these days as he continues to be floored by childhood obesity rates.

Weight problems can be tackled at a young age if fitness is made fun, he said.

“We’re trying to show kids that they can have a blast and get some exercise; exercise with a ton of research behind it,” Bryant said.

Last week, even in the blazing heat, Bryant couldn’t keep his daughter and her friend off the course. They played until their cheeks were pink.

“It’s sweet to see how much they mature from a fitness standpoint because of this stuff,” Bryant said. “It’s all about watching kids grow, learn to play, move their bodies and have fun doing it.”

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