Building Up STEAM

by Kristina Hernandez

 Jul 16, 2019 at 8:38 PM

Clubs offer tons of fun for all ages, from camps to nights out

Modern play has taken on new meaning and direction as parents and childcare advocates incorporate applicable education into everyday activities. STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics — careers are the fastest growing in the country and salaries are sometimes more than double non-STEAM jobs.

STEAM-based learning recognizes that life is not a series of multiple-choice questions, but rather a messy, hands-on world where teamwork and creativity reign. It moves away from traditional instruction into more cross-curricular methods like teaching kids how to build a LEGO bridge and test its strength, or using marshmallows and pasta to construct atoms.

Inspiring Curiosity At Camp

Many McConnell Golf clubs offer camps during summertime and shorter school breaks to help kids (and parents) get the most out of their time away from school. No matter the occasion, camps are planned to maximize fun and feature a different theme each week over the summer — or for a day the kids are out of school, like President’s Day or a teacher workday.

The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation offers summer camps for kids ages 3-5 and 6-11 and feature a variety of entertaining themes, including Animal Planet, Disney, LEGOs, wet ‘n wild, and sports camps for golf and tennis.

The club partners with Challenge Island, a local,member-owned STEAM-based company that creates appealing activities to grab kid’s attention but also engage with them to use logic, reasoning, and creativity.

One of the more popular STEAM-based camps at Wakefield is Slime Camp. Each day is based on a different theme, like Space Day or Ghostbusters. All activities use some aspects of science, technology, engineering, art, and math throughout the day. Kids often don’t notice they are learning because it’s so much fun.

“For younger kids, we did a Polynesian-quest theme with Moana, and for older kids we have a camp where they will be making their own videos,” said Karen Weathers, owner of Challenge Island in Raleigh, NC. “Using Challenge Island’s model, we’ve created camps based on Minecraft, Fortnite, and superheroes.

An Evening Just For Kids

While adult-oriented social events occur a few times monthly, that doesn’t necessarily require parents to find a babysitter. The club also coordinates Kids Night Out programs with more popular adult events to make it easy for all members of the family to enjoy the club.

Wakefield’s Kids Night Out usually happens twice a month to coincide with special dining events or summer cookouts. From 5:30-9:30 p.m., the kids participate in crafts and games and enjoy a kid-centric meal. Activities center on a theme like science or art, and always incorporate a learning aspect into lively fun.

“I think parents really appreciate our programs and activities,” said Natalie Clemens, director of activities at Wakefield. “We’ve grown our program a lot recently and many of my ideas come from members telling me what they want and think their kids would enjoy. We work with a wonderful group of people, which makes the kids really want to come back.”


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Learning the Game

by Brad King

 Mar 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation’s Junior Golf program is firing on all cylinders.

Mastering fundamentals has long been  at the core of junior golf, followed closely by making the sport appealing to kids. But the pros at Wakefield Plantation are taking things to the next level with technology, fitness, and contagious enthusiasm. In so doing, they have not only doubled the size of the program but are paving the way for golf’s next generation.

Under the guidance of Wakefield’s Director of Golf Adam McLaughlin, his assistants Monique “Mo” Gesualdi, Ryan Vance, Matt Brennan, and teaching professional Erica Britt, Wakefield’s junior program runs year-round and totals about 100 players. Within that junior golf program, the club’s PGA Junior League program is up to 56 participants and four in-house teams, while the Wakefield Junior League has grown to more than 60 young golfers.

The club’s junior players take advantage of the Wakefield Plantation Learning Center, including its two indoor-outdoor bays and an indoor putting area equipped with video technology. The cameras offer instant swing feedback, while also allowing the Wakefield instructors and coaches to monitor swing improvement, and modify specific golf moves.

The Learning Center is also equipped with Flightscope, a leader in golf radar technology providing detailed information about club movement and ball flight. In addition, this winter, Gesualdi teamed with Wakefield’s personal trainer, Drew Forshey, to add a junior fitness program to the golf training regimen. The fitness program includes high- intensity interval training plus stretching, balance, stability, and flexibility exercises.

“The combination of fitness training and golf technique is often overlooked by junior golfers,” says Jason Butcher, whose 14-year-old son Jace has competed in national tournaments. “Many juniors, my son included, can’t practice properly because of physical limitations due to a lack of strength or mobility. This program emphasizes the importance of both, and keeps it fun.”


“We have a really solid group of junior golfers,” says Gesualdi, an accomplished former Furman University golfer, who adds that her passion has always been junior golf.

Gesualdi points to 14-year-old Lily Kate Watson. “She has a lot of potential that we are working on unleashing and will be one to watch,” says Gesualdi.

According to Lily Kate’s father, Josh Watson, the golf fitness program has been a wonderful experience. “Not only has the high level of instruction helped to improve her game, she’s also really enjoyed connecting with the coaches and players,” he says.

Lily Kate echoes her father’s sentiment: “As a female junior golfer, I feel so fortunate to be a part of a club that supports high-level golf instruction for both boys and girls,” she says.

Gesualdi calls 9-year-old Isaiah Adel her “stud” — and little wonder, considering Adel has fired a 32 for nine holes.

“The Junior Golf Fitness Program is great because it works on sharpening the kids’ golf skills while also teaching them how to stay physically healthy for the sport,” says Christian Adel, Isaiah’s dad. “Mo and Drew keep it entertaining, with some friendly competition mixed in, which the kids always enjoy.”

Gesualdi says Dylan Johnson, who recently turned 12, possesses the “smoothest left-handed swing” she has ever seen. Dylan’s 2017 club champion-ship scores were 87-89, and in 2018, he shot 76-82 — 18 shots lower over two days in one year.

Other rising stars include 10-year-old Chase Duncan, who had his first hole- in-one at age 9 and competes on the regional and national level. Ten-year-old Cooper Pleasants, in the Junior Golf Fitness program, is newly competing but has great athletic ability and will be one to watch as he continues to develop his game over the next few years.

Gesualdi also points to 8-year-old Harrison Hunt, who has yet to play tournament golf, but exhibits a “great, natural swing.”

Beyond an increase in skill for these juniors, both parents and players agree that it’s the camaraderie among the kids that’s just as important.

“The connections our kids are making with other juniors makes the whole process seem more like fun, less like work,” says Erik Johnson, Dylan’s dad.

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It's Chase with the Ace

by Casey Griffith

 Mar 01, 2018 at 9:05 PM

Meet 10-year-old Chase Duncan. He recently shot his first hole-in-one at Wakefield Plantation, acing hole No. 7 while playing with his father. He is the youngest McConnell Golf member to do so at any property.

“My Dad shot the yardage at 90 and he said maybe an 8 iron,” says Chase. “I said, ‘I think it’s a 9.’ I was right. When I saw it go in, we both yelled and were excited.”

For his father, Jon Duncan, it was both a proud and humbling moment.

“Anything that your child accomplishes that makes them truly excited is always a blessing to watch in person,” he says. “Then when they remind you that you have never accomplished that same thing, you realize that a 10-year-old is better at golf then you.”

Prior to his hole-in-one, Chase was named the 2017 Junior of the Year at WP. He started playing when he was four years old; now, he’s a strong member of the 2017 PGA Junior League squad. Last year, he won the Junior Club Championship Nine & Under Division with a solid round of 39, seven strokes better than his nearest competitor.

This past summer, Chase teamed up with his Dad to post a stellar score of 37 and claim a Modified Pinehurst Parent-Child event at WP. Needless to say, the father-son duo have a lot of golf ahead of them. We’re certain there’s an ace out there for Dad in the future!

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Sports Club Enhancements

by Matt McConnell

 Dec 07, 2015 at 7:59 PM

The Wakefield Plantation Sports Club has always been very valuable to its membership since it first opened in 2002. Already complete with eight tennis courts, a fitness room, 9-hole golf course and three swimming pools, what else could you ask for? Clearly a lot more!

Kids Game & Media Room

Originally a gym for more than 10 years, this room has been transformed into the ultimate “playroom.” Complete with a foosball table, an air hockey table, board games, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox Kinect, the latest video games and gaming chairs, kids won’t ever want to leave this room. Children, 13 and up, are allowed to check in unaccompanied, and love showing off this awesome atmosphere to their guests while receiving proper staff supervision.

Fitness for Everyone

Our new 3,000-square-foot Fitness Center opened on October 27th and has been hopping ever since. Packed with the latest equipment from US Fitness and TVs on every wall, members can accomplish their goals individually or with the help of our highly credentialed personal trainers. The Fitness Center also features a studio offering a variety of classes six days a week by certified instructors. Inclusive packages are available for our Personal Trainers and Fitness Classes to fit your needs. With kids’ care offered during these workouts and key fob access from 5 a.m. – 10 p.m. seven days a week, members have no excuse not to get in shape for 2015!

New Tennis Shop

Possibly the most important improvement of all, this custom-built tennis shop is now located directly in front of the tennis courts – with convenience in mind. Filled with new apparel, equipment, refreshments and 24-hour bathroom access, this NEW Tennis Shop is certainly considered a luxury for all of our tennis players.

Kids Corner

Once a tennis shop, our Kids Corner is the perfect room for child care, birthday parties and kids’ camps. During the summer months, we offer full-week kids’ camps that are each themed differently. From Super Heroes Camp, to the Magical World of Disney, your kids are sure to have fun in this playful setting.

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