Seniors Teach Kids to Love the Game of Golf
By Judie Holcomb-Pack
“A kid grows up a lot faster on a golf course. Golf teaches you how to behave.” – Jack Nicklaus
Listening to Julius Reece talk about the seniors who volunteer to teach kids to play golf at Winston Lake Golf Course, you have to wonder who is having more fun – the seniors or the kids.
Winston Lake Golf is home to the Earnest Morris Jr. Golf Academy, as well as the First Tee golf program for young people. The Earnest Morris Jr. Golf Academy starts the first week after school is out and teaches not only the basics of playing golf, but also the rules and etiquette of the game of golf. There is a fee of $125 for six weeks of instruction, but financial assistance is available thanks to the Senior Golf Association. The program runs Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. – noon and includes snacks and lunch.
The club provides golf clubs, balls, tees and hats for the kids, most of which are donated by golfers who frequent the course and are aware of the program. Without donations, both in equipment, snacks and financially, it wouldn’t be possible to put on this program.
The program has been so successful that many participants continue year after year until they age out when they graduate from high school – and then they come back to volunteer in the program. According to Reece, “This is more one-on-one mentoring with kids.” They learn acceptable dress on a golf course, dependability, honesty, respect, core values, and sportsmanship. They also learn how to persevere despite making mistakes. One of the highlights of the program was when James Black, a famous African-American golf pro, came to the academy and gave a presentation to the kids. Black was a member of the first class inducted into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame in 1986 and was honored along with others in an exhibit of African-Americans in golf at the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Both girls and boys participate in the golf academy, from about age seven and up. The last week of class they hold the Ryder Cup Challenge, two teams of 24 competing for the championship. The kids receive a collared golf shirt and hat to keep. Reece has found that at the end of the program, the kids are more confident and mature. Often they don’t want to leave and hang around, hoping to get some more time out on the course. Reece especially likes to see kids start playing with their parents.
Nick Jamison stopped by recently to drop off a bag of balls he was donating to the program. He is also a big supporter of kids learning to play golf, along with volunteers Richard “Eagle Eye” Thomas, Harden “Butch” Wheeler, James Blackburn, Milas Ross, James Allison, Coach Mickey, Dickey Roane.
Reece recalls one kid in particular who came to the Earnest Morris Golf Academy. He was young, uncoordinated, home schooled and kind of shy. He just wasn’t very good in the beginning. But suddenly he “got it,” and stuck with it and became the best in the state, and had the highest GPA of all the home schooled kids. The golf program truly changed him and encouraged him to be successful, both in school and on the course.
Another young lady didn’t want to play at all, but after she hit her first couple of good balls, she was hooked.
Reece says, “Golf grooms you to be confident and have self-respect.” He said that you have to love kids to be around kids and golf and have a lot of patience. But when you see an out-of-control kid suddenly hit a good shot or make a putt, and see the look on their face, it makes his day.
“God blessed me with this job,” said Reece. “I want to do all I can to enrich others.
For information about the Earnest Morris Jr. Golf Academy, call the Winston Lake Golf Course at 336-727-2703.