Kids golf effort hits hole in one

Deal: First Tee of Howard County to have free use of Columbia course for 10 years.

October 07, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A program intended to introduce more children to the game of golf will have a home in Columbia for the next 10 years.

Under an agreement reached this week, the Columbia Association will allow, at no charge, First Tee of Howard County to teach golf at Fairway Hills Golf Course for the next decade. The agreement includes renewal options for two additional five-year periods.

First Tee of Howard County is part of a national program, backed by the Professional Golfers Association, that is intended to attract more players to the game, particularly minority and low-income children.

"We're delighted to have the program here," said Joan Lovelace, manager at Fairway Hills.

Since last summer, Columbia Association staff members have been managing the program on a trial basis at Fairway Hills for a fee of $3,000 a month, said Robert D. Bellamy, operations director for CA's sport and fitness division.

The agreement reached this week only concerns use of the golf course, not the use of staff to teach classes or organize the program, Bellamy said. If First Tee wants CA staff to continue managing the program and if CA is willing to do so, a separate deal will have to be worked out, he said.

The agreement also expresses an intention to build a classroom for the program at Fairway Hills at the expense of the national First Tee program, said Rob Goldman, vice president of CA's sport and fitness division. Any building plan would still have to come before the Columbia Council for final approval, he said.

The classroom would be built onto the main clubhouse or the golf course's maintenance facility, Goldman said.

"If they build a classroom, it's an asset that will eventually belong to CA," Goldman said.

About 100 children have participated in the Howard County program since summer, learning to putt and hit over sand traps. For several of the students who gathered for class Wednesday, the program was not their first encounter with golf.

Austin Nam, 9, of Clarksville had golfed before with his father. So had Nicolas Ancona and Kelly Shuman, both third-graders at Pointers Run Elementary School.

Corey Smith, 13, an eighth-grader at Burleigh Manor Middle, said he learned more from the program than he could on outings with his father. "They have better instructors, and they know how to teach," he said. "They know how to get the point to you."

For Bryan Baldwin, 9, of Columbia, First Tee was a first chance to try the sport. "I thought it would be something fun to do, and I think it is," he said.

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