Golf, a game of skill and patience, and fun for all ages, has been increasing in popularity for the residents of Weehawken.
Now in its sixth year, the Recreation Department’s golf program has attracted many residents to sign-up, including 10 students and counting for the fall season, which opened recently and will run thru Nov. 13.
“It has been growing for over six years and I have a list of over 60 golfers that I e-mail, including the 10 we have this year,” said Carnig Nersesian, instructor for the program and coach of the Weehawken High School Golf Team.
“It all started with the high school golf team and it grew year after year,” said Nersesian. “Instruction is included for youngsters six and up, and for adults.”
The students on the high school team play and compete in the Bergen County league.
“The Bergen County League needed an extra team, so the athletic director asked if [Weehawken] would supply that extra team,” said Nersesian. “When I heard they wanted to start a golf team and I volunteered.”
“About 17 kids tried out and we cut them down to 12,” he said. “I was coaching the golf team and I took it one step further because once you get a golf team you need to have some experienced players coming in. [Most of these] kids don’t have access to a golf course, so we had to provide that for them.”
Learning the basics
The Weehawken golf program is free to residents ages 12 and up, and is funded through the Recreation Department. In addition, many people have donated equipment to the program, especially golf clubs, so that students can take them home to practice.
“We have about 25 sets of donated golf clubs,” said Nersesian. “I take them and clean them up, and give it to the students.”
As with any of the recreation programs, residents have to sign-up for the program, which meets twice a week at the Edgewater Driving Range on River Road on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m.
“They start off with instruction each night and buy a bucket of balls to practice,” said Nersesian.
Also giving instructions in the program is avid golfer and Councilman-at-Large Robert Zucconi and his daughter Erica Zucconi.
“Councilman Zucconi volunteers his time as an assistant coach on the high school team and an assistant instructor,” said Nersesian. “He is very generous with the kids and Erica is also a good player and a good teacher.”
“I have been playing since I was about 6 years old,” said Erica Zucconi. “My dad is really the one who encouraged me to play. It was quality time.”
“I like to see progress,” said Zucconi. “You see how people are making progress when they listen, take instruction, and work hard at it.”
Instruction includes the basic fundamentals of golf from proper hand placement and grip to posture and swinging.
“Combining all those into the fundamentals of the golf swing,” said Nersesian.
After some introductory instruction, the students start practicing their swing, while instructors guide them and give them pointers.
“We spend maybe 10 to 15 minutes with each student with instruction for hitting the balls,” said Nersesian.
“I love it. This is my third season taking lessons,” said Eileen Kane. “The instructors are so knowledgeable and patient, and they really take the time to show you so much. It’s really great that Weehawken provides this through the recreation program.”
Many of the newcomers have already shown improvement.
“Their progress is fantastic,” said Nersesian. “At the end of each session we have a competition and pick a specific target [to aim for].”
“This is my second class, and the coaches took a lot of pain in explaining each and every technique,” said Varsha Patel. “They give us expert advice and personal attention. They are all really good.”
Love of the game
In addition to practice twice a week, Nersesian brings in publications such as Golf Magazine for students to take home to learn more about the sport. A couple of residents even bring their own clubs.
“Some have their own clubs, and others are novices and they don’t know which clubs to buy,” said Nersesian.
“In the summer time we got to the waterfront [park], where we have a 1200 to 1400 sq. feet putting green,” said Nersesian. “We also have the program for the kids, where Councilman Zucconi takes the students to the Bowling Green Golf Course [in Oak Ridge] in the summertime.”
Erica Zucconi also gives the kids instruction around the course.
“I have been playing for so long everything is a habit,” said Zucconi. “[Golf] is a social thing and during the summer it’s always nice to play. It’s an enjoyable day with family.”
“It can be picked up, but it takes a lot of practice and dedication,” said Zucconi.
Although funded by the recreation department, additional money is also collected through fundraising efforts. Last summer, the Weehawken Emergency Medical Technicians hosted their annual Charity Golf Outing, which helped raised funds to buy new ambulances. About $500 was donated to the program, and the EMT squad raised about $9,000 for the ambulances.
“I would like to thank the people who helped contribute to the ambulance squad golf fundraiser,” said Nersesian.
Nersesian has been golfing for about 45 years, and says in golf there are rules you follow, but no one is there to foul you. So it’s really up to you to play by the rules.
“[I enjoy] the athletics of the game,” said Nersesian. “It’s not an easy game and I think it’s a healthy sport. It’s also the honesty, integrity, and the fellowship that is involved [that I enjoy].”
Nersesian also credits professionals like Tiger Woods for really popularizing the game of golf.
“It’s the Tiger Woods effect,” said Nersesian. “Everyone is interested in golf because of players like Tiger Woods and Kenneth Barnes.”
Registration for the fall session is still ongoing for any interested residents.
For more information on the golf program call the Weehawken Recreation Department at (201) 319-6061.
Comments on this story can be sent to: email@example.com.