It was not long after the death of their son, Casey, that Nancy and Pat Smithson felt the tug in their hearts to do something—something that would honor his life and to keep his memory alive for themselves and for Casey’s young family.
And the fact was, that something wasn’t hard to arrive at.
Before his three-year battle with leukemia, which Casey lost in 2010 at the age of 24, he lived and breathed for the game of golf.
Nancy recalls, “Casey was raised on a golf course. He was there every day.”
“Casey loved golf so much, everything was about golf for him.”
“He was a fantastic golfer. Many that observed him said that he had a beautiful swing.”
As a true champion for the sport he loved, during his life Casey shared his passion with everyone, especially taking an interest in teaching the next generation of golfers.
“He loved teaching kids,” Nancy says.
“He was always encouraging kids to play golf or other sports.”
“We just had to pass his love on to other kids somehow, so we created Casey Cup–Kids 4 Golf.
For his parents, Casey Cup–Kids 4 Golf was a natural fit to continue their son’s mission.
Casey Cup-Kids 4 Golf started very simply. As owners of Lone Oak Trophy House, the Smithsons annually donated trophies to the Shad Boaz Golf Scramble in memory of Dan and Heidi Boaz’s son, Shad. One day, Dan suggested naming the traveling trophy “The Casey Cup.” After that year Dan helped begin the annual golf scramble benefiting Casey Cup-Kids 4 Golf.
So began the journey of the travelling Casey Cup trophy.
With the help of golf pro, Danny Mullen at Paducah’s Paxton Park Golf Course, Rolling Hills Country Club pro, Kevin Rhinehart, Jason Stilley, then pro at Paducah Country Club, and retired Bob McBride, the Smithsons and volunteers hosted spring clinics that gave kids the opportunity to play the sport and receive instruction without costly green fees or membership dues.
For six years, Casey Cup Kids–4 Golf clinics saw more than 100 students begin to learn about the game of golf, with lessons on fundamentals and the mental tenacity needed to be a success at the game.
Nancy and Pat were proud of the success of the kids clinics that they hosted each year, but they soon began to wonder if there was a way for them to reach even more kids—to spread even more of their son’s love for the game.
Their answer came in the form of the SNAG Golf curriculum, designed by former PGA golf players Terry Anton and Wally Armstrong. Used in more than 8,000 classrooms across the nation and abroad, the SNAG golf concept utilizes a modified golf game with a unique, kid-friendly design to introduce elementary-aged students to the game and to the important life skills it supports.
When Nancy reached out to the state golf association and realized that they were helping to provide SNAG kits to schools, through grants, in the Lexington and Louisville areas, but no support was planned for schools in the Jackson Purchase area, she knew that they needed to get to work.
With costs ranging from $3,000 to $4,000 per kit, the Smithsons immediately began organizing Casey Cup-Kids 4 Golf scrambles at Paducah’s Paxton Park Golf Course to raise the funds they needed.
Those events garnered enough support for Casey Cup-Kids 4 Golf to provide SNAG kits to Heath Elementary, Lone Oak Elementary and Hendron Lone Oak, Community Christian Academy and Concord Elementary School.
At Concord Elementary, P.E. Teacher Rae Ann Walker was already teaching golf as part of her curriculum and eagerly accepted the donation as a way to further that experience for her students.
“The kids learned how to chip and how to putt,” she says of their first semester with the SNAG program.
“They really loved it.”
“It’s a great curriculum for elementary kids. The clubs are big, the balls are bigger, the targets are bigger.”
Rae Ann, who plans to introduce the SNAG concept again into her classes in the upcoming school year, believes the experience achieved exactly what the Smithsons intended.
“As a P.E. teacher, I try to teach my children about life skills–things that when they leave me, they can carry on and I feel like golf is one of those things,” Rae Ann says.
“Golf is a lifetime activity–you can play at any age.”
“But a lot of kids can’t afford to go out to a country club and play a round of golf. Thanks to things like the Casey Cup, they can experience it.”
For now, the Smithsons are focusing their efforts on the annual Casey Cup– Kids 4 Golf Scramble that raises money to purchase additional SNAG kits. They have two kit donations planned for St. Mary School and the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club of Paducah.
“With the SNAG kits, we believe we are helping kids and we are trying to build up golf and give kids an opportunity to play like Casey did,” Nancy says.
“A lot of kids don’t know if they’d like to play golf or not because they don’t have the opportunity.”
“What we are doing in Casey’s memory is giving them the chance to find out.”
“I think Casey would be happy to know that kids like him have an opportunity to play golf because that’s what he liked to do,” she says.
“Casey would be very proud of this.”
Would you or your business like to participate or volunteer in the upcoming Casey Cup– Kids 4 Golf Scramble?
Would you like to donate money to be used in the purchase of a SNAG kit for a local school?
Do you know of a local teacher who would be interested in a SNAG kit for his/her classroom?
For these questions and any additional information about the Casey Cup-Kids 4 Golf, you can reach out to Nancy and Pat Smithson at their business, Lone Oak Trophy House and Four Rivers Marine Signage on Facebook, via email at email@example.com or via phone at 270-554-2284.
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