Golf with a Higher Purpose

It was a sun shiny day in August with the wind blowing gently through the willow trees at Rolling Acres Golf Course. 19 youth and 8 adult mentors made their way on to the green to practice their skills. At hole 7, WGAL’s Ron Martin walked his group of youngsters out past the hill to see the hole. “Aim to the left side of the pole”, he coached the kids. Twelve year-old J’san Washington made the 80-yard shot from hole number 7 and hit the green. I watched him hustle over the hill with his golf bag on his shoulder. “I can’t believe it!” he shouted as his face beamed with pride.

The York County Black Golfers Association, hosted season two of its Youth Mentoring Program during the Summer of 2010. The association was founded in 1996 with four friends traveling to Myrtle Beach to play golf. Today, the Black Golfers are a forty-four  strong, multiracial, 501c3 Non-Profit Organization teaching the skill and sportsmanship of golf to boys and girls. Leo Cooper, a 65-year old retiree and one of the founding members of the group has been an active member of his York community for years. “We wanted the group to be about more than just playing golf recreationally”, he said. “Golf is about trust and integrity…We’re losing our youth at such a rate and for a myriad of reasons.  I think that those of us who’ve experienced some success in life ought to give back.”

The Black Golfers offer their eight week long Youth Mentoring Program to children and adolescents of all ages, races and cultures each summer at no cost. The Golfers open each session with a lesson and informal discussion with the kids. Lessons cover topics including leadership, staying in school, and goal setting.

Jarrett Barnett is a 33 year-old Account Executive and a driving force behind the Youth Mentoring Program. “Golf levels the playing field.”, he said, “Size and strength don’t necessarily matter.” Each youth receives a logo golf shirt and hat, a school bag, drinks, snacks and a starter set of golf clubs to keep upon completion of the summer program. Parents provide transportation to Heritage Hills Golf Resort and the Black Golfers take care of the rest. Heritage Hills golf pro Bill Brander has been coaching youth sports for thirty years. He teaches skills to the youngsters while the Black Golfers offer support and encouragement.

Five year-old Manny was the youngest to graduate the Youth Mentoring Program in 2010 and sixteen year old Allone was the oldest. Schools represented among the 18 youth participants included McKinley Elementary, Hanna Penn Middle, West York Middle, Dallastown Intermediate, William Penn High and Jackson Elementary. Twelve year-old Trey said, “I’m sort of a competitive person and it’s a sport I can show my skills in. I like to win.” Five year-old Manny’s Grandfather is a member of the Black Golfers Association. “Manny watches the golf channel and he beats everybody at golf on the Wii.”, he said.

The Black Golfers Association has a vision to expand their offerings to a Winter program and to extend their Summer program offerings. “’anything to stay involved with the kids.”, said Jarrett Barnett.

The 2011 Youth Mentoring Program begins on June 12th and concludes on July 24th.

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