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Making a Difference: Conemaugh Township golf coach raises funds to create golf facility

Golf coach at Conemaugh Township Area High School raised enough funds to turn the school's basement into a high-tech golf facility. (WJAC)

SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WJAC) - The basement at Conemaugh Township Area High School used to have a purpose as a wrestling room but it was abandoned when they built a new field house.

One golf coach saw an opportunity transform it into something useful. He was able to raise enough funds to create a facility that allows students to golf year round!

Aim, swing, repeat. Students at Conemaugh Township Area School District are grabbing golf clubs and teeing off at their new high-tech golf facility.

It was once a rundown, vacant basement in the high school but golf coach Adam Thomas saw an opportunity to turn it into something great.

“Out goal is to get kids out and get them moving. Especially in the winter around here, sometimes there's not a lot to do so this gives them something to do,” gold coach Adam Thomas said.

It's a place for kids to try golf for the first time or for the 48 golfers in the district's golf program to improve their skills. They recently added a golf club for students in middle school.

"If they would have had this when I was a freshman, I’d probably be golfing 20 strokes better,” said Alex Zakucia, a senior at the school who plays golf.

Adam started a nonprofit called the Conemaugh Township Golf Fund with help from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

Local businesses and residents donated. He quickly raised $25,000.

"It was crazy, I was so happy that everybody in the community loved it so much and cared that much that they would donate,” said Grace Thomas, who is a sophomore on the golf team.

The team used to just practice on their own in the summer with the season starting in mid-August and ending in mid-October.

Now students like Thomas' daughter, Grace, can hit the links rain or shine!

"Just the opportunity for kids to learn how to putt, get the touches and get the feel and be able to hit the club for more months of the year, not only for the competitive people but just for the fun factor. The ability to be comfortable and learn,” Adam Thomas said.

The facility opened last fall but it flooded. Insurance allowed them to make it even better.

It now includes a large room with 5 golf simulators, which offer virtual driving ranges, 18 hole games and swing analysis. Also, a core strength and flexibility room and an indoor 1,400 square foot putting green. There's even an outdoor practice green.

“It’s absolutely incredible. I can't believe he finished it and how fast he finished, I was shocked when I saw it all together,” Grace Thomas said.

“Like 10 hitting bays, new carpeting, stuff on the ceiling. It was everything, I couldn't believe how much it changed,” said Alex Zakucia.

This facility will allow students to golf all year and really find a love for a sport they can enjoy throughout their lives.

“People say why golf? I say, golf kind of transcends age and gender, you can go out and play golf with your best friend, your grandmother and your dad. It’s sort of the sport you keep, which is great,” Adam Thomas said. “I tell the kids, I’m in my mid 40’s, I used to wrestle and play football but Saturday mornings no one calls me to wrestle."

This is a unique touch driving the golf program right down the middle of the fairway.

“I think it's really going to push the Conemaugh Township Golf Program up a lot and I think some kids will be able to get scholarships for college. It’s going to set them above everybody,” Alex Zakucia said.

"I just hope that kids will see this facility and want to try golf.” Grace Thomas said.

Because of a community that's always willing to help, this facility was a hole in one for the school district .

“I would say thank you, this is something years to come.” Adam Thomas said. I hope 15, 20 years from now kids and families are still enjoying the facility. It's something that makes Conemaugh Township unique."

“I’m sure it'll be around until I have kids going here and they'll be using it and there will be even better technologies then,” Alex Zakucia said.

This will also be used as a multi-use facility. The simulators can be converted into movie screens and a space for events for families.

The outdoor putting green is open to the public and eventually they may use the indoor facility for public events.

This hasn't cost the district anything and they want to continue to be self-funded.

If you would like to help the Conemaugh Township Golf Fund, you can donate here.

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