High School Sports

Brookstone to open golf academy in fall

A sports academy connected with a school is not a new idea.

Places like the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., have provided athletic instruction for years, creating a school whose primary focus -- at least from the outside looking in -- is improvement on the field of play.

The problem, according to Columbus State coach and local golf instructor Mark Immelman, is the exclusivity and location of such schools or academies. In his mind, he said, the same can be done much closer to home.

"The phrase I carry is, 'Why not Columbus?' " he said. "The golfing population around town feels like they have to go to golf academies in Florida or up to Atlanta to get instruction when we have all the means necessary to do it here. We've got good golf courses, we've got good weather and we've got a bunch of great minds assembled in town."

And now they have the academy to go along with it.

Immelman has joined forces with Brookstone School to create the Brookstone Golf Academy, which will cater to individuals who want to come to Columbus for instruction. Individuals will enroll and become students at Brookstone and pay an additional cost for golf instruction.

The hope is to attract students from around the country interested in attending the academy, but keeping an education-first mindset with the school.

"The kids will go to school and they will go to class just like any normal student," Immelman said. "There is no preferential treatment. They'll engage and assimilate in the classrooms, and then afterward they'll come and work with us as an extracurric

ular activity."

The academy will not be connected with Brookstone's own golf team, which will continue its own competition within the Georgia High School Association. Individuals attending the academy will have the opportunity to receive instruction from Immelman and conditioning from Columbus State strength and conditioning coach Chris Kendrick. They will compete individually in high school tournaments -- not as part of team -- and in tournaments on the Southeast Junior Golf Tour.

The idea came to Immelman about a year and a half to two years ago, he said. He saw the other academies and realized that everything needed was right here in town. While he was a product of the public school system in South Africa, he pitched the idea to Brookstone, a private school, because of some of the unique opportunities the school presented.

The school's golf reputation was certainly attractive as well. He had cultivated a relationship there because of golfers like Robert Mize, a CSU golfer, and James Clark, whom he served as an instructor.

He said he believed the academy was win-win situation for everyone.

"There's a benefit for everybody," he said. "The students who come to town and join the academy will benefit from it and the school, and of course the school will benefit from the new, more diverse students. The real winners are the students who come on board."

Currently, they have no commitments for the fall semester, though he said there are a handful of leads based on connections he and Kendrick have in the golf community nationwide. The goal for the fall is to bring in five or six students. After that, he said, they could accommodate up to 15. Beyond that, they would need to look into hiring additional instructors.

Which, of course, is the ultimate goal. The challenge, though, is to attract these students without the benefit of much advertising beyond word of mouth.

"The challenges are really just the enrollment," Immelman said. "We're venturing into an industry that is pretty well established. So the competition will be one of the challenges, but we're positioning ourselves differently in that the main focus is the classroom and the child's emotional development, and then introducing them to instruction that will help them become a better golfer."

There are no restrictions on students based on skill level, he added.

"We welcome students where they are and work with them to help them get better on and off the course."

Students are not forced into any multi-year commitment either. It is up to them if they want to remain with the academy for all four years of high school or not. Should they decide to leave the academy, they could still remain at Brookstone and join the golf team there.