by Troy Sparks
Dan Gogin’s love for the game of golf goes back to when he was 6 years old and picked up a set of golf clubs for the first time. That experience evolved into a passion for golf. As did his participation with the sport progress from playing to teaching others the game.
Gogin, who has previous experience teaching adult golf lessons, took on the task of teaching the basics of golf to a group of kids for the first time this summer. Lessons were offered for children ages 6-18 at the Bridging the Gap Learning Center, 1600 W. State St.
Right away Gogin noticed a difference in teaching the children and adults. “(Kids are) a lot more excited,” he said. “It’s easier to get them excited about some of the (game). They get frustrated a lot quite easily. Adults tend to take it a little bit more seriously. The kids tend to stay a little bit more optimistic. They try to find the joy in some of the successes that they have instead of focusing so much on the negatives.”
The outdoor golf range at Bridging the Gap allowed kids from the surrounding neighborhoods and outside the area to hit balls from a tee and to practice making putts throughout the summer when the weather was nice. Additionally, the group practiced their putting and chip shots at Lake Park and even played the par-3, 18-hole course.
When bad weather made it impossible to practice outdoors, Gogin held classes inside the golf clubhouse. “In an indoor environment,” Gogin said, “we would have discussions on golf clubs and how they work and uses for them. We also talked about golf courses, golf course etiquette, the history of golf and rules.”
The morning and afternoon sessions gave the youngsters plenty of knowledge and practice on golf. The Wisconsin Professional Golfers Association (PGA) and Milwaukee Recreation joined forces to give kids the opportunity to swing the clubs and learn proper golf manners. The First Tee of Milwaukee County was also instrumental in allowing the participants to play at Lake Park on Milwaukee’s east side.
The main goal of The First Tee of Milwaukee County’s golf program is instilling in young people life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and respect while providing affordable access to golf. Those four elements are part of the nine core values of the program, which also include judgment, confidence, responsibility, perseverance and courtesy.
Gogin knows all too-well the life-enhancing values of the sport. His own experience in golf included countless hours of playing on the course near his home as a youngster; working a newspaper route and caddying at the Bluemound Country Club to earn enough money to buy his own set of clubs.
In college, Gogin wanted to play golf at UW-Milwaukee, but the school didn’t have a team at the time. Instead, he put playing on hold to learn the business side of the sport by accepting an assistant’s position at a golf club.
In 2005, Gogin used his PGA card to play in some tournaments, but he didn’t have good results. His focus was on learning to teach golf, running a golf facility and trying to make enough money to support his family. He took classes in Florida to become a PGA certified instructor and club pro and spent more than 15 years as a club pro, serving as the head pro at two different clubs for eight years.
Gogin, who is married with two children, found that spending between 60-90 hours a week away from home running golf clubs and teaching, took a toll on his family.
“It’s really difficult to be part of a family when you’re away from the house that much,” Gogin said. “And this summer, I decided that it was time for a change, time to try a little something different. It’s been a little less money, but it’s been a lot more time with my family and my kids. It’s been a great transition for us.”
With his career coming full circle, Gogin sees the value of playing a role in allowing children to experience the game of golf just as he did in his youth.