Volunteers, Club, ‘chip’ in for Junior Golf program

by Benita Fuzzell

No doubt, the next generation of golfing greats, the next equivalent to Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, may be found on the greens of small courses across the country.

Those who love the game, love it, and may hate the round of the game they just played.

Even worldwide evangelist, the late Billy Graham, reportedly was quoted as having said “ The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course...”

For seven weeks this June and July, taking breaks only for our nation’s birthday and a longstanding men’s invitational tournament, children from ages six and younger, to 16 and up have met on Friday mornings at 8:30 a.m. to putt, chip and drive their way around Fulton Country Club’s course, in a revived Junior Golf program, coordinated this year by John Alexander and Mikki McLeary.

Opened up to the public this summer, the Fulton Country Club’s Junior Golf program was free to members, and with only a $5 fee per week for non-member participants, offered children and youth an opportunity to learn etiquette, ethics, safety and sportsmanship, according to Alexander.

He and McLeary were assisted each week by a number of adult volunteers, approximately 15 each week, including parents and some club members. Ideally, McLeary said, the ratio would be one adult to three children or youth.

All total, 80 participants registered for at least one of the sessions, with an on average attendance of 40-50 per session.

“There were kids from Mayfield, Wingo, Paris, Union City, Mayfield, Martin, Troy, Kenton, Fulton and South Fulton,” McLeary said.

Those who did not have equipment, had it provided to them for use throughout the program.

The $5 fee provided lunch each session, the country club’s pool use after the golf rounds, and a customized Junior Golf shirt for all who attended.

Some equipment was donated by a native of the Twin Cities, Josh Bennett, who now resides in Florida where he is a Golf Pro.

A number of corporate sponsors supplemented the costs associated with the program, including Searcy Rentals, The Keg, Commercial Bank, Edward Jones, Evans Drug, Fulton Decorating, The Meadows, State Farm Insurance and American Yards.

Alexander said many individuals made donations as well to get the program off the ground for this year.

“This year went really smoothly,” McLeary said, noting her appreciation to Brian Henson, who a few years ago formed the West Tennessee Junior Golf Association.

“Brian provided us with all the information, all the ‘how-to’ things we needed to conduct the program,” she said.

The youngest golfers focused on putting, while levels of instruction heightened with each age category.

The culmination of the Junior Golf season at the Fulton Country Club was a tournament, with trophies and prizes awarded to the top finishers in each division.

Both Alexander and McLeary agreed volunteers are always needed, and they look forward to next year’s program.

The great Arnold Palmer once remarked, “Success in golf depends less on strength of body than upon strength of mind and character.”

As a result of this summer’s Junior Golf program, participants have taken the first step in relation to the proverbial path that leads there.