By Mr. Kevin Stabinsky (IMCOM)October 29, 2009
ATLANTA - Unlike golf's goal to shoot under the par, exceeding the standard is the goal of the golf lessons being offered to children in the Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem community.
In partnership with the DoD, First Tee of Atlanta is teaching children between the ages of 7 through 17 the fundamentals of golf at The Commons at Fort McPherson.
The free six-week program, which began Oct. 17 and runs through Nov. 21, teaches fundamentals such as stance, set up, swing and etiquette on the course, said William Lewis, lead instructor for the course. More importantly, Lewis said, he hopes the children learn larger lessons from the series of lessons.
"Teaching life skills; that is the real focus of First Tee," Lewis said. "We invoke life skills like learning how to meet people. You're not going to last in the world if you can't meet and greet other people."
Other lessons that can be pulled from the course are the importance of total concentration on the task in front of you, the need to put forth effort and continually practice skills, the importance of following through on tasks and getting different people to work together as a unit, Lewis said.
Learning these skills was one of the reasons Lt. Col. Kermit Jackson, maintenance officer, Maintenance Section for G-4, First Army, signed his son Kermit, 10, up for the course.
"It's a good sport for him to learn. He can discover confidence, learn concentration and interact with other kids," Jackson said. Additionally, Jackson, who has taken his son out to golf with him, said the instruction will help his son better understand the game when he plays.
Learning the game was the motivation for Mary Pharris, an accountant for G-8 at U.S. Army Forces Command, to sign up her daughter, Abby, 8.
"She's been interested in playing and learning the rules of the game," Pharris said. "She's having a good time, so it's working out."
Reaching out and encouraging that interest will, hopefully, create a lifelong passion in golf, said Chris Hawkins, assistant instructor, First Tee.
"Getting kids interested can only grow the game," he said.
Growing the game is one way Hawkins can give back to the game which has given so much to him.
"Golf has been a part of my life for so long, and done so much," he said. "I went to school on a golf scholarship and was recognized at the White House with Robert Palmer for my work with First Tee. It's been an awesome thing in my life."
Interesting enough, Hawkins' skills were taught and honed by Lewis, giving power to the proficiency of the course.
"He's been in it for so long, more than 40 years, and has a depth of knowledge," Hawkins said of Lewis.
In that 40 years, Lewis has won the Georgia Junior Golf Teacher of the Year award in 2000 and 2008, coached at Morehouse College and was invited to play at the Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters Tournament is played.
"It was a lifelong dream to play there," Lewis said, adding that he managed to shoot a 65 on the par 72 course. "Golf took me to a lot of places. It changed me, and you never know whose lives you are going to change."
Hawkins said he hopes to change lives for the better, just as Lewis did for him, all while giving kids something fun to do.
"First Tee encompasses life skills and we definitely want them (the kids) to learn them. They're more important than the golf, but both together make an unbeatable combination," he said.