Finally spring break arrived and like so many others, the Huntington University golf team headed south to warmer climes to begin to shake off the winter rust and tune up for the spring season. But unlike most other teams, the Foresters had more on tap than just playing the game they love. They found an opportunity to share the game and the life skills associated with it in a clinic setting at the The First Tee of Augusta located in Augusta, Georgia.
The First Tee is a national and international initiative to introduce golf and nine core values associated with golf (honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment) to youngsters, primarily in inner-city metro areas. It is their belief that exposure to these positive traits will help young people achieve success in life. During the week, those involved in the program go to the facility after school to take character education classes designed to help them develop these life-enhancing values, and then on the weekends, they work on their game skills.
Jay Tropf, a 2005 graduate of Huntington University and a four-year member of the Forester golf team, joined the The First Tee staff as an Assistant Golf and Life Skills Professional last August and helped make the arrangements for the team to spend some time sharing their skills and insights with The First Tee participants.
On Saturday, March 11, thirty-seven children, ranging in age from 7-15, arrived at The First Tee facility to participate in the Foresters’ clinic. The children were given instruction on chipping, putting, and full swing mechanics. “I really enjoyed the interaction with the kids. It felt good to teach kids a game both they and I love and see them improve. It was amazing how well behaved and attentive they were,” said Huntington freshman, Justin Imel. Following the 90 minutes of instruction, the participants had the opportunity to play with the Forester squad on the facility’s six-hole course.
“Working at The First Tee was definitely one of the highlights of our trip,” said senior Andrew Porterfield. “Working with kids is not something that we get to do very often, so I don't think many of us really knew what to expect. They were really eager to learn, and were really excited to get a chance to play with players from our team after the clinic. I played with an impressive fourth grader named Russell, who I'm sure beat me over the six holes we played together. This type of service project allows us to teach kids about golf and provide a positive influence for them to follow.”
While this was the team’s first time to conduct a clinic in Augusta, it wasn’t the first time they have volunteered their time for a worthy cause. Head Coach Pete Schownir is making it a team tradition. “I have always felt very strongly about including a work project as part of our spring break trips,” said Coach Schownir. “The past couple years, we have spent time doing work projects at a group home facility for mentally handicapped residents in Crystal River, Florida.” But this year, Schownir wanted to give something back to the sport. “There’s something about the golf community that is special,” commented Schownir. “People who have a love for the game and a respect for its history are very willing to share that with others, especially with younger generations. I hope these are experiences the kids and the team will talk about for the rest of their lives!”