Huntington golf team volunteers with 'The First Tee'

Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University’s golf team members spent spring break sharing the sport they love with children eager to learn.

The Huntington University golf team and participants from 'The First Tee' are all smiles.
The team conducted a 90-minute clinic with 37 children ranging in ages from 7 to 15 at The First Tee of Augusta, Ga., on March 11, 2006.

Jay Tropf, a 2005 Huntington graduate and an assistant golf and life skills professional, set up the service project for the team. Tropf has been at The First Tee since August of 2005.

The First Tee is a national and international initiative to introduce golf, character development and life enhancing values to children, primarily in inner-city metro areas. For more information, log on to

Senior Dan Knuth prepares to check the alignment of a First Tee participant.
Huntington’s golf team split up into three skill areas: full swing, chipping, and putting, and the children rotated every 30 minutes. Afterwards, the children who could stay played with team members on the facility’s own six-hole course.

The practice balls at The First Tee are donated by Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters Golf Tournament held every April. Each player at the Masters requests and is given his own brand of balls to use in practice.

Sophomore Patrick Davis helps a child with his swing. Davis, incidentally, scored a hole-in-one during one of his rounds of golf in Ocala, Fla.
The day the Huntington team was there, Tiger Woods was said to be at Augusta National to practice, and everyone received a Nike practice ball that Woods hit at the range that day.

While this was the team’s first time to conduct a clinic in Augusta, members have done volunteer projects on previous spring break trips. In past years, the team has washed and waxed vans at a group home for people with disabilities in Crystal River, Fla., and another year worked on cleaning up a miniature golf course the group home has on its grounds.

“I have always felt very strongly about including a work project as part of our spring break trips,” said head golf coach Pete Schownir.

The following students were participants:

Dan Knuth, a senior elementary education major from Berne, Ind.

Wes Knuth, a senior elementary education major from Berne, Ind.

Andrew Porterfield, a senior computer science major from Marion, Ind.

Patrick Davis, a sophomore graphic design major from Huntington, Ind.

Spencer Batt, a freshman pre-med major from New Haven, Ind.

Ryan Bonner, a freshman undecided major from Liberty Center, Ohio

Justin Imel, a freshman business major from Markle, Ind.

Daniel Schroeder, a freshman undecided major from Rockford, Ill. (did not attend the trip due to illness)

Head golf coach Pete Schownir addresses the children and parents before the start of the clinic.
Another highlight of the trip was being hosted by the men’s group at the First Baptist Church of Orlando on March 14, 2006, to hear PGA Tour pro and this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman share his Christian witness at a fellowship breakfast.

Afterwards, the team attended a practice round at the PGA Tour’s Bay Hill Classic. The group was given an autographed photo of Arnold Palmer by a Bay Hill board member that will go into the Huntington golf team’s trophy case. The trip concluded with playing and practicing at Candler Hills Golf Club in Ocala, Fla., as guests of PGA pro Jeff McDonald. He gave the team golf and range privileges as well as set up a private area of the range for the Huntington golfers.

Senior Wes Knuth checks the setup of a First Tee clinic participant.
“There’s something about the golf community that is special,” Schownir said. “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. Golf is a game of respect, integrity, honesty, and character, and we consider ourselves very fortunate. I hope these are experiences the team members will talk about for the rest of their lives.”

Freshman Ryan Bonner poses with a group of children.
Comments from Dan Knuth, a student who went on the trip:

"The thing that meant the most to me during the trip was when we helped out at the First Tee. As the kids were leaving they would be yelling good-bye to us out of their car windows, and they called us all by name. The fact that they could remember the names of complete strangers they had just met made me realize that we had an impact on the kids we helped."

"It is very important to participate in service projects like the First Tee. The First Tee is not a Christian organization, though they do teach things like integrity, courtesy, honesty, etc. We were able to show the kids Christ love while they were with us without directly talking to the kids about Christ. I believe the kids saw that there was something different about us."

Comments from Wes Knuth, a student who went on the trip:

"I would have to say that the best thing on the trip was the stop at the First Tee in Augusta, Georgia. It was great to be able to work with the kids and see them get excited about golf. I believe that we as a team really made an impact on each child's life. As I played a couple of holes with the kids at the clinic, I got to know them better through questions and just watching their personalities. Many of them will be great golfers, and through programs like The First Tee, they will mature into polite and excellent men and women. Finally, I was glad that I even got to go on this trip. With student teaching, I didn't know how it was going to work out. This team has come together from the moment that we met and it is as though we are brothers. It was just great to be able to go on this trip and spend time with the guys since it is my senior year."

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU)  


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Joanne Green
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