First Tee an ace for youths

July 27, 2013

No big basket by Dirk Nowitzki or touchdown pass from Tony Romo will ever replace the pure joy of seeing a child excited about trying a sport for the first time.

A recent visit to the First Tee Golf Camp at Granbury Country Club was quite the refreshing reminder of this simple fact.

“I like it because it’s fun,” said 7-year-old Kyle, an Acton Elementary student who had never played the game before.

Kyle is hoping the camp will help him be able to do more than ride with his grandpa next time grandpa plays.

Kyle and his grandfather had lots of company as 33 youngsters, mostly under the age of 10, turned out for the First Tee Camp. Area First Tee directors Mark Hackney and Jeff Jeffries brought the program from Fort Worth to Granbury, and it’s been a big hit with youngsters, especially those who might otherwise never pick up a club.

The program, funded largely by grants from the United States Golf Association and donations, is designed to teach the game to youths without a lot of expense. Cost to participate in the First Tee program is $50 for the first student, $75 for two and $100 for a family.

But no child will EVER be turned away – and they mean it. If a family doesn’t have the money, scholarships are ready and waiting.

Heck, they even provide free clubs and bags if a family doesn’t have the funds.

And it’s all kept under wraps. No one knows who is on scholarship and who paid full price. In the First Tee program, there are no societal classes.

But fun is definitely mandatory.

“I like it because I can meet new friends and play golf,” said 8-year-old Karlee, an Oak Woods Elementary student.

“I like learning new things. It’s fun.”

Her favorite part of the game, the drives, which was the case with many students. Something about whacking the heck out of a ball and watching it go is exciting – or so I’ve heard.

Alyssa, age 9, a Brawner Intermediate student, is one of the few who prefers the short game. Having played a fair amount of miniature golf in her young life, she said she likes putting best.

“It’s neat when it goes in the hole,” she said.

YOUTH IS THE FUTURE

“Junior golf is the largest growing part of golf,” said Hackney.

The program also has several multi-week clinics throughout the year. The camp and these clinics draw from not just Hood County, but from surrounding counties, Hackney said.

“Our dream is to have our own facility. We love to have the Granbury Golf Academy,” said Hackney.

In the meantime, the folks at Granbury Country Club love having them there, and the feeling is reciprocated, said Jeffries.

“This relationship is awesome,” he said. “It’s very positive. Everybody here is real receptive.

“They have a new generation of golfers getting started.”

And sometimes the kids even teach the adults a thing or two.

“We’ve had some people come up after watching some of the basics the kids do and say, ‘I forgot about that,’” said Jeffries.

And the program has seen its fair share of talent, Hackney said, noting the vast improvement in Brady, a teenager.

“My one young poster child was shooting about 125 when he started, and now he shot 80, 84, 84 in a recent tournament,” said Hackney.

Golf, however, is only part of what the program teaches youngsters. Life skills are perhaps the MOST important part of the First Tee curriculum.

“I learned to be honest and not blame things on someone else,” said 8-year-old Oak Wood student Julio.

“The social aspect is great,” said Elizabeth, whose 5-year-old daughter Ashlynn is in the program for the first time.

“She was so excited that today she learned about taking turns and respecting other people.”

Golf is a lifetime sport, but so are the life skills being taught by First Tee. Children have to be shown how to maneuver properly through this crazy world.

“It’s just not all good out there,” said Hackney.

A closeness develops among the participants as well, said Hackney, such as when one teenager suggested that the directors step aside and let him try reaching out to a youth from an abusive situation.

“He said he could reach him in ways we couldn’t,” said Hackney.

Meanwhile, Kyle was working on his tee shots as grandpa watched.

“I like trying to hit the ball far,” said Kyle.

So do I, Kyle. When you figure out how, maybe you can show me the secret.

[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 256

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Category: Sports Archived