Clinics aim to expand game's base

October 04, 1994|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

The talk was of "dedication, discipline and desire equaling achievement," but for 100 inner-city youngsters assembled at Mount Pleasant Golf Course last week, the interest was in hitting a golf ball.

This was an informal introduction to a more structured program that would begin the next day, twice-a-week clinics to run for an hour or so after school that will continue for the next four weeks. The children, ages 8 to 13, who were split into two groups of about 50 each, are from the city's Department of Recreation, Druid Hill YMCA and the Paragon Golf Association.

The classes, with Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation professionals as teachers, provide hands-on instruction in the fundamentals of the sport and attempt to give the students improved self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

The program is part of a nationwide effort by the Minority Golf Association of America to involve inner-city youth with the game. The organization was founded by New York brothers John and Paul David, who grew up caddying at private clubs on eastern Long Island.

"We started with this about three years ago, and last year we did clinics in about four cities," Paul David said. "Now, with a national sponsor [American Airlines], and several local sponsors, we will be looking at Baltimore as a prototype for golf clinics we're planning in as many as 15 cities next year."

Through this effort, MGAA hopes to show the children they can expand their opportunities, show they are not limited to the marquee sports. "It's about giving them an opportunity, and that is what such groups as Paragon, the Municipal Golf Corporation and sponsors are about already," said Fred Jackson, an MGAA board member.

The Paragon group, for instance, is looking at the possibility of a 12-month program, building on the interest generated by the clinics and helping the youngsters stay active during the winter months.

At the national level, according to Paul David, the National Golf Foundation has recognized that in order for the industry to survive through the next decade it must find a way of getting more minorities involved in the game. "Myths such as golf being a white man's sport or a sissy sport need to be dispelled," he said.

"Two years ago, a Black Enterprise magazine article cited golf as not just a game, but a business strategy as well. It said the golf course had given people a chance to discuss business in a relaxed atmosphere."

Some of those executives of tomorrow may well be the ones participating in youth clinics today.

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