When I was growing up, golf was a pretty big deal in my family. My dad, who was semi-to-mostly retired when I was seven years old, played golf two or three times a week. At home, all that was ever on the television was golf or CNN. Except Knight Rider, which I watched with Daddy on Friday nights, and The Cosby Show/Golden Girls, which Mom and I watched on Thursdays. And our weekly dose of Solid Gold, which we all watched in the family room with tray tables and Salisbury steak. But other than that, golf occupied a good deal of Daddy’s recreational life. And he was good. And he never rode the cart. Hardcore, he was.
Mom played with him, too, of course, and while they never forced any of us to play, it was hard to live in that house without eventually picking up a club. Sure enough, my older brother and sister started playing and still do. But my brother uses a golf cart. As the joke goes in my family, eighteen holes is a long way to lug a cooler of beer.
Yet somehow, I didn’t get the golf chromosome. I’m also a red-headed, left-handed synesthete; I’m used to being the weird embodiment of my ancestors’ recessive traits. Dad died several years ago, but today I’m happy to report that he’s sure to be smiling somewhere, knowing that I’ve finally embraced the game of golf through my son (and Dad’s namesake) and First Tee of Harrisonburg.
Cal’s loved golf since he got that brightly colored Little Tykes golf set… and then graduated to Wii golf… and then got another set of toy clubs. So when I found The First Tee’s web site and saw that he was old enough to sign up, we were very excited!
The First Tee is a non-profit organization that “promotes character-development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.” They serve about a thousand kids, ages 5 – 17, every year in the Shenandoah Valley. They offer several programs for different ages and ability levels. Cal started in Little Legends, which is for 5- and 6-year-old kids. He’s about to turn seven, so his next program will be PLAYer, which he can take any number of times until he turns nine and can advance to the next level.
A typical Little Legends lesson was like this. First the kids (about seven of them) and the coaches (two of them) warmed up doing moves like washing machine and toe touches. Then the kids practiced hitting different targets with drivers and giant, over-sized golf balls. After that they headed to the driving range, where they were given standard-size golf balls and allowed to whack as many as they wanted as far as they could. Bree was perfectly happy watching all this, but the program director was kind enough to ask her if she’d like to hit some balls, so she did. And she loved it! Sometimes the kids also practice on the 5- or 6-hole putting green.
The instructors are excellent — patient, attentive, and knowledgeable, making sure to help each and every child individually. The First Tee is located at the Heritage Oaks Golf Course, which is ridickers beautiful. I still didn’t really have a desire to play, but I could sit and look at that scenery for hours, surrounded by mountains and rolling hills, warm sun and a refreshing breeze.
Their fall season is underway, but it’s not too late to sign up. We’ll be out there again in October. Each level is conveniently offered at several different times, usually twice a week for an hour, and it’s only fifty bucks for six sessions. They even provide clubs if you need to borrow some. Check out their site today and get the family signed up!
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