TOM STEWART: Kid Golfers Deserved Better Than That
As a 40-year Life Member of the PGA of America and someone who has taught over 1,000 juniors, I strongly disagree with Carl Ramey's cynical rant against competitive junior golf (Sept. 2) and with my friend Andy Thomas' column of Wednesday on the same subject.
Ramey specifically took on the "overtly commercial production' of the recently held U.S. Kids Golf event here in Pinehurst. He neglected to point out that the US Kids Golf Foundation, which runs these events, has donated to many charities throughout the United States.
I was asked to captain/coach the international team in the Ryder Cup format on Pinehurst Course No. 2 to close out the teen version of the event. If Mr. Ramey had attended that event or seen the joy on the faces of the kids at the opening parade in Southern Pines or watched the fun at any of the various age-group tournaments held throughout the area, he might have had a different point of view.
After many rounds were finished, kids of all ages exchanged pins, flags and caps from other countries or clubs. New friendships were formed and young golfers gained new confidence. By Mr. Ramey's logic, we should cancel Little League Baseball. But as Teddy Roosevelt said, "very few monuments were ever erected to cynics or pessimists."
I can assure brother Ramey that not all kids were pampered by their "caddie parents." Perhaps he should have met Charley Flynn from Louisiana, a 9-year-old who loves the game of golf just as another boy might love soccer or fishing.
Mr. Ramey would have loved Jack Green and his mother/caddie, Pamela, from New Zealand -- who, along with their extended family, trekked to the U.S./Pinehurst area and said it was the highlight of their lives.
How about the not-so-well-off Mexican kids who played for me on Sunday? Their dads did not play golf but loved their sons enough to sacrifice for their kids' trip to compete in this event. My own experience is that some of the closest and most teachable moments with my own son took place on a golf course.
When I was a poor caddie in Northern Michigan, I qualified for the International Jaycee Junior Championship held in Minneapolis. Alas, I did not have enough money to go. The town held a fundraiser to pay for my first trip on a plane to compete in that event. That experience was a life-changing event for me and paved the way for me to go to college on a golf scholarship.
Today's practice of assuming to know what is best for other people, whether in religion, politics, fashion or even competitive junior golf, is presumptuous at best and arrogant in the extreme.
The event itself was and is a continuing boon to the summer economy of our area. In our shop in Pinehurst, I never met one family who was not thrilled to be here where we call home. Many parents fell in love with this area, and several will no doubt retire here because of their visit.
Golf is a great avenue for learning the lessons of life. Our local First Tee program is teaching just that. But along with the Tin Whistles of Pinehurst, the First Tee also runs a first-class junior competitive tour that has challenged and enriched all of its participants.
So I say to the US Kids team of Dan VanHorn, Dewey Crim and John Goodwin, along with Pinehurst Resort's Peter Stilwell, his staff, and hundreds of local volunteers, congratulations to you all for a great event and for affording kids from all over the world, from all walks of life to have the time of their life in our beautiful "Southern part of heaven."
Tom Stewart, who lives in Pinehurst, can be reached at email@example.com.
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