- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Faith Turley, 15, of Lincoln was having a good time putting her soccer skills to use at Bergen Golf Course.

The teen was playing footgolf with her mom and dad at Bergen’s new certified course. Footgolf is similar to golf, but instead of a golf ball and club, it involves kicking a soccer ball into a 21-inch wide hole in as few kicks as possible.

Bergen’s new footgolf course was unveiled to the public on June 11 and the park district offered a free day of play to usher in the new sport. About 115 people, including Faith and her parents, stopped by the golf course to give the new sport a try.

“It’s really fun,” Faith said between holes. “It’s not something I’ve never really experienced before. … It’s interesting combining the two sports together to create a better sport that two different types of athletes can play.”

Lynn Saputo, director of recreation for the Springfield Park District, said footgolf will be a regular offering at Bergen.

“We are really excited. I think this is going to boost activity here at the golf course. Also, we are going to encourage outings, teams and birthday parties. People can sign up and have fun out on the course,” Saputo said.

Bergen will still offer traditional golf. Footgolf is played in the rough, on the side of the fairway, which means it can be played with traditional golfers on the course. To make it easier on golfers, footgolf will start later in the day.

“We purposefully positioned the timing of this to be after the more busy time of golfing in the morning,” Saputo said. “Golfers typically like to get on the course between 6:30 and 7 a.m. We pushed the weekday play of footgolf after 11 a.m. on purpose. It doesn’t mean the two can’t be played simultaneously, but we did want to be conscious and respectful of our traditional golfers and the game they like to play.”

Since some footgolf participants may not be familiar with golf courses, the park district will be teaching players some basic golf etiquette so the interaction with traditional golfers goes as smooth as possible.

While Bergen is a nine-hole golf course, there are 18 holes set up for footgolf. The distance from the tee area to the hole is staggered so that people with different skill levels can enjoy the game. The different tees are color-coded.

“The blue tee is the farthest. It’s about 100 to 120 yards,” Saputo said. “It’s about 70 yards kicking off from the red tee.”

Faith’s previous soccer experience was a definite benefit, but the whole family was enjoying the game.

“She’s much better at it than we are, but the whole family can do this,” said Faith’s dad, Brian Turley. “The group we’re with is having a lot of fun. It’s a nice day out here and it’s good exercise walking the course.”

Laquesha Russell of Springfield and her 12-year-old son were with the Turleys on the course.

“It’s interesting. It’s fun for the children to get out, enjoy the weather and learn something new,” Russell said. “Everybody is enjoying themselves.”

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Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, https://bit.ly/2rtvBMh

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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