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Lance Christensen spends summer giving back to youth

Lance Christensen Jr

Lance Christensen Jr, a former state golf champion from Little Wound, is spending part of his summer exposing the game of golf to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity.

As a current division one golfer for New Mexico State, it’s not always easy finding time to give back, but as a high school student, Christensen made a promise with himself to work with those with less opportunities. And it’s a promise to this day that he’s keeping.

“It’s like a big passion of mine to want to grow the game and bring a golf course here to my reservation eventually,” Christensen said. “So I’m really trying to just stay grounded and try to get back up and running again. And do a few camps because I know that this game has a lot of opportunities and it’s given me the chance to play division one golf, be on TV, and all these types of things, so it’s not right for me not to try to pay it back to other kids.”

Lance Christensen jr
Youth golf clinic in New Town, North Dakota on July 6-7, 2023

Christensen grew up right outside of Kyle, which sits on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. One aspect that makes his journey with the game unique is that there’s no golf course in Pine Ridge. Instead, he would travel across the border into Nebraska to play at the Gordon Country Club and Golf Course. This commute to play golf wasn’t just a ‘once in a while’ thing, either. By the time he got to playing competitively in high school, if the weather was good, he was making the hour drive each way to play on a course.

He also had a homemade driving range at his house where he could practice swinging the clubs.

“I was thinking about it the other day and it's like I'm one of two Native American Division I golfers in the country, and the other one is my teammate,” explained Christensen. “So it just kind of goes to show that him and I are really paving the way for these kids, you know? I feel like I never planned it that way. For me, it was just playing golf but I don't know. Now I don't look at it as any big pressure or anything like that. It's just trying to give a kid an opportunity and it's just a game after all.”

Christensen’s story became well-known throughout South Dakota when he won the state ‘A’ boys golf championship as a junior. A year later, he announced his plans to attend NMSU for college golf. Christensen, who will be a red shirt sophomore this coming fall, says college life is much different than high school.

“Time management is a hard thing when you're a collegiate golfer because it's your life, you know? You got to practice every day and then you still got to try to make money on the side and you still got to manage this, that, and the other,” he stated. “So it's hard.”

This summer, Christensen is living back home with his folks near Kyle, SD. His normal day consists of lifting weights and working out in the mornings, and then golf in the afternoon. One difference in his training is instead of traveling to Gordon, Nebraska to golf every day, he now travels the Golf Club at Red Rock in Rapid City to play.

In his free time, however, he’s been trying to work with the youth on advancing their golf skills.

“I just went into New Town, North Dakota and I did a youth golf camp up there. They invited me up to do a camp on their [Fort Berthold Indian Reservation] up there. So, we had about 30 kids. We did a younger session, seven to thirteen and then we did fourteen to eighteen (year old), divisions like that. It was a two-day camp,” told Christensen. “It was a good experience. A lot of those kids at the start couldn't even hit a golf ball or didn't know how to putt or anything. It seemed like a few of them was their first-time stepping foot on a golf course. By the time the second day comes, they were all hitting it out there, and a majority of them were making it inside the boundaries without any issues at all. So it was pretty awesome to see.”

youth golf clinic in New Town, North Dakota on July 6-7, 2023
Lance Christensen Jr
youth golf clinic in New Town, North Dakota on July 6-7, 2023

On August 7th, Christensen will also be helping with a clinic in Rushville, Nebraska at Sand Ridge Golf Course, which is about 25 miles from the South Dakota border and Pine Ridge Reservation. He has to report back to Las Cruces, New Mexico the following weekend.

“I guess if there's one word of advice I can give is when it feels like you should change your plans, just because of a tough stretch of months or maybe even years, don't do it,” said Christensen. “Because it always pays off. Your goals can always happen with hard work, you know? There isn't triumph without sacrifice.”

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.