Don Van Deusen to oversee First Tee at Fairway Hills

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

July 28, 2002|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

FIRST TEE of Howard County, the program started last summer to make golf more accessible to kids, continues to grow at Columbia's Fairway Hills Golf Course, to the point where an executive director has been named to oversee the work.

The man chosen is no stranger to working with kids or to anyone familiar with Howard County sports. He's Don Van Deusen, a Columbia resident who for 32 years has taught physical education and coached in county schools. His "day job" these days is being athletic director at River Hill High School.

Van Duesen's coaching experience over the years ranged from basketball to baseball (he played a while in the New York Yankees farm system) to football, with the latter sport becoming his first love. He coached 21 seasons at Atholton High, and then he moved to River Hill when it opened. He gave up the football job there two years ago, and his son Brian took over the program.

"I'm really enjoying it, working with the kids," Van Deusen said of his new First Tee position, which he will do in addition to his AD work. "It's different from the coaching I've done before, though."

True, but Van Deusen is also no stranger to golf or to Fairway Hills regulars. He is a 5-handi- capper who has worked part time for the past five years as a starter and marshal at the course, which is how he came into the First Tee job, he said.

Joan Lovelace, Fairway Hill's head professional, got the program rolling last summer, but it has grown to the point where demands on her time from all aspects of course management were conflicting. He said she asked him if he could pick up the program.

A total of 209 youngsters signed up for instruction and time on the course this summer, double last summer's number. The first round of classes just ended, and another group of "par golfers," as beginners are called, started their lessons last week. A number of "birdie golfers," graduates of the "par" program, continue to practice and sometimes play.

Any child can participate, but by charter, First Tee actively seeks minority children, working through the public school system to recruit students. The program is affiliated with the national First Tee program, which Tiger Woods had a hand in setting up, and is backed by the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA. Under it, kids get low-cost lessons, free use of equipment and some playing time.

Nationally, the concept is to broaden the appeal of golf to nontraditional players and to assure the sport's continued growth. The USGA is concerned about a declining number of younger golfers who play the relatively expensive sport regularly.

Van Deusen said he has "10 or 12 volunteers we can count on to help regularly," most of them mothers or golfers at Fairway or the Columbia Association's other course, Hobbit's Glen. The volunteers squire kids around and help with teaching. When the kids are ready, they accompany them on the course for their first rounds.

Other First Tee developments:

Plans continue for an addition to Fairway Hills' small, historic clubhouse to be used as instructional space. The broader First Tee program includes classroom work on golf and on life choices, as well.

Van Deusen said the hope is for the addition to be ready next summer, but the local group must raise about $100,000 before construction can start. The group has received a $50,000 grant from the national First Tee as a start.

Details of a fall fund-raiser will be announced later, he said.

When school opens, First Tee will operate for the first time as an after-school program, too. "We're going to hit the schools pretty hard this fall," the new executive director said.

It's 3v3 time again

The third annual 3v3 Soccer Shootout (soccer parlance for three players on each of two teams playing at a time) directed by the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County will take place at Howard Community College on Saturday and Aug. 4.

It is part of the national Got Milk 3v3 Soccer Shootout National Tour, which is operating in more than 65 American cities this summer. Teams, without goalkeepers, compete on a small field. Play puts a premium on ball skills and movement, both offensively and defensively, away from the ball.

Brackets are set up for children as young as 6 through adult players, with skill levels ranging from recreational to travel and adult play.

Local winners in each bracket will be invited to compete in a Northeast regional tournament Aug. 17 and 18 in New Brunswick, N.J., with winners there advancing to a national tournament in January at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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