On Centre: Centre Region | Toftrees offers families a chance to tee off

When my children were little, we lived across the street from a miniature golf course, and I took them there so frequently that the employees not only knew their names, but their ball-color preferences.

Initially, I just saw it as a great way for them to burn up energy in the evenings after dinner.

But I soon realized that they were learning, too. Patience, sharing, respect, good sportsmanship and coordination are just some of the things “putt-putt” taught my toddlers while they raced around on bright-green faux grass.

What I learned is that golf is a life skill — and I don’t even play. It also brings people together, and unless those clubs become weapons (which may or may not have happened in those little-kid years), it’s a sport everyone can enjoy.

“Golf is a great game for families; everybody can play,” said Charles Sheppard, director of golf at Toftrees. That’s not to say that everyone can play well, he said. But everyone can play.

On Sunday, Toftrees Golf Resort invites families to play — and to learn.

The Marriott Family Golf Festival is a companywide event designed to get children and families involved in the sport.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Toftrees golf professionals will offer free lessons and fun, family-friendly activities, such as miniature golf on the putting greens, a marshmallow longest-drive contest, raffles, prizes, demonstrations by TaylorMade representatives and use of the club’s pool.

Oh, and did I mention free golf?

The lessons — for golfers of all ages — will be casual, roughly 10-minute sessions. And beginning at 2 p.m., anyone who wants to can tee it up on the course — for free.

It will be Sheppard’s first Family Golf Festival at Toftrees, but he’s been involved in the program at other Marriott properties and said it’s been successful, with as many as 100 people participating.

Sheppard started playing at about age 10, he said, when his stepfather started taking him to the driving range and then, eventually, onto the course.

He’s new to State College, having arrived from Orlando on a 5-degree January day. But he’s warming up to it here.

“As bad as the winter was,” Sheppard said, “the summer is just as good.”

And the forecast looks pretty good for Sunday.

From the age of 3, my son was hooked on golf and has made a career of it.

My daughters ... not so much. When they were little, they’d lose interest and wander aimlessly, brightly colored golf balls in hand, pretending the windmills and mansions on the miniature golf course were their princess palaces while their taskmaster brother lined up his putts and tallied his strokes.

Either way, it made for some great family fun.

For more information about the event, call Toftrees at 238-7600.