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The S.C. Junior Golf Association Hootie & the Blowfish Spartanburg Chapter’s 2013 Summer Tour Schedule has been set with nine tournaments at nine different local golf clubs.
Here is the schedule:
June 6, The Creek; June 10, Woodfin Ridge; June 17, River Falls; June 24, Cherokee National; July 1, Village Greens; July 8, Country Club of Spartanburg; July 22, Carolina Country Club; June 29, Heddles Hideaway; July 5-6, Three Pines
By KAREN L. PUCKETT
At eight years old, Anne Taylor Hough had been introduced to the game of golf through The First Tee Program but her first love was horseback riding.
Then she won her first trophy.
That was at Woodfin Ridge, playing in the Monday Series Golf Tournament and shooting a 40 to cinch her first-ever, first-place finish.
“Anne Taylor has always loved the look of golf, being around it and everything that’s associated with it,” says her mother, Anna. “She’s always been a natural at it.”
That’s not too hard to understand, considering both of her parents are natural athletes: her mother, a USTA tennis player, and her father, Taylor, a competitive golfer and former member of the USC-Upstate golf team. They also own and operate The Creek Golf Club.
Now 15 and a sophomore at Spartanburg High School, Anne Taylor is ranked 17th in South Carolina and expects to expand her golf career within the next year, playing in tournaments throughout the Southeast with an eye of qualifying in the U.S. Juniors. She’s had several impressive finishes in competitions in North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina, including 13th overall in The Beth Daniel Junior Azalea Tournament at the Country Club of Charleston in August. A month earlier and closer to home, Anne Taylor won the Spartanburg County Women’s Amateur at The Country Club of Spartanburg.
“I love the traveling,” Anne Taylor says of playing in so many tournaments, mainly during the summer. “I get to meet so many people and I enjoy the competition.”
Regardless of how far golf takes her, Anne Taylor says she will never forget her roots. In fact, she’s an ambassador for The First Tee Program in Spartanburg, frequently serving as a speaker at various clubs and organizations to promote it.
“I talk about how big of an impact The First Tee has had on my life and my game,” she says, explaining how the program, which is implemented in many schools in the county, focuses on the character and development of players on and off the golf course.
On the course, however, golf has “opened many doors” for Anne Taylor, according to her father, Taylor.
“The game allows you to meet many people and gives you the opportunity to play in college,” he says, noting that Anne Taylor hopes to play for a Division I school in a few years.
The two-handicapper is well on her way to achieving that goal although she recognizes that there is always room for improvement.
“I’d like to start shooting a better score,” she says. “I’m shooting well but my scores don’t always reflect that.”
Taylor has seen an evolution of sorts in the women’s game in terms of scores.
“The girls have really gotten competitive,” he says. “It used to be the level of play was around 79 or 80, but now it’s 64 or 65, phenomenal scores. If you shot a 73 to 78 three years ago, you’d be winning tournaments. Now you’re lucky to be in the top 10.”
Anne Taylor acknowledges that golf can be a lonely sport.
“There’s not anything that I don’t like about golf, except sometimes practicing. It’s me, my IPod and my dad,” she says.
While her father has been instrumental in her career, he has had to do some practicing of his own when it comes to watching Anne Taylor compete in tournaments.
“I’m becoming a better parent and less of a coach, and I’ve learned to step back,” Taylor says.
Anna says her daughter’s mature attitude and devotion to practice have paid off on the course.
“She is able to multi-task between school and practice after school and tournaments,” Anna says, adding that it’s often a “family effort” to get Anne Taylor to tournaments.
In addition the Houghs’ younger daughter, Garland, 12, is a competitive cheerleader and Friday nights they support her leading cheers for fans at Spartan High football games.
“As with a lot of families with siblings, you learn to divide and conquer,” Anna says. “I’m just a mom who loves to watch my girls compete.” GD
BY KAREN L. PUCKETT
The First Tee of Spartanburg offers kids the opportunity to develop core values and learn a new sport at the same time.
“Through the game of golf, we teach character education, values and healthy habits,” says Fran Dunn, executive director of The First Tee of Spartanburg. “Many of the values and disciplines, such as honesty and respect, are easily identified with golf.”
The First Tee curriculum focuses on nine core values and nine healthy habits. Kids as young as five years old (the Little Linksters) learn how to apply these values and habits on and off the golf course. Meeting the requirements for the next level, they progress to the Par, Birdie, Eagle and finally the Ace levels, each with age-appropriate lessons on the curriculum’s values. At the beginning of each lesson, the class meets at the Learning Center and the instructor introduces the core value of the day. After a few minutes of class discussion, the instructor and volunteers take the kids to the driving and The First Tee Par 3 Course. They divide in small groups with one participating in a game to teach them how to judge distance or the slope of the green, for example. Another group may play a few holes on the par 3 course while third group hones their swing on the driving range.
“They do a really good job teaching the golf fundamentals and also life fundamentals that can carry outside of the golf course,” says Brian Miller, whose son, Nolan, 7, is in his second round of the program this summer. “It is also a very accessible program for everybody to do.”
Whether or not the child ever picks up a club after program, the goal is to shape the child into becoming a better person overall. In golf, players have to make calls against themselves even when no one is looking.
“That type of integrity goes a long way, and it’s something the kids internalize,” Dunn says.
Dunn adds that the program emphasizes basic manners.
“Some of what we teach just reinforces what the kids learn from their parents at home,” Dunn says. “Like the ability to make eye contact when greeting someone, we talk about how to properly communicate.”
And how to properly play by the rules. For example, not many golfers are fond of the rule mandating that you can’t move a ball out of a divot. First of all, The First Tee instructor emphasizes that players respect the course and replace the divot so other players won’t have to fuss about that rule. Concerning the rule specifically, kids learn that they have to play by the rules and respect authority regardless of their personal opinions of such.
“If you’re going to win a round or a tournament or whatever, you want to do it the right way,” Dunn says.
Because they’re not competing in the U.S. Open just yet, The First Tee players want to have fun while learning a new sport.
“My girls really look forward to it,” says Deanna Robbins, whose daughters, Savannah, 11, and Rebekah, 8, are in the summer program. “They like the interaction with the other kids, and I like the things they are learning about honesty and being respectful of each other.”
Dunn says that golf is a great avenue to connect with other people and make friends.
“You see the true character of a person when you play golf with them. You see whether they accept setbacks,” Dunn explains. “You can tell how they’d react to other things in their lives by seeing how they react on the golf course.”
Dave McElroy appreciates the encouragement players give each other on the course.
“They always clap for each other,” says McElroy, whose son, Max, 8, chose to participate in The First Tee instead of swim team this summer. “The instructors are patient and spend time teaching the values of the game. It’s all about integrity.”
That’s what Dunn wants to get across to the general public.
“Our biggest challenge is to overcome the misconception that we just teach golf. It’s so much more than that,” Dunn says. “You’ve got to have the life skills that go along with it. We focus on the whole person. We want to equip them to be more successful in their lives and give them the skills to enable that.”
FIRST TEE EXPANDING THIS FALL
Dodgeball. Tetherball. Flag football. For decades, kids were introduced to these sports in physical education class.
This fall, students at Pine Street, Houston and Jesse Boyd elementary schools will learn a new sport: golf. Local sponsors are funding these schools to train physical education teachers and implement The National First Tee Program. At press time, The First Tee of Spartanburg was vying for a $100,000 grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation that would support the golf program in several more schools.
The First Tee of Spartanburg began in 2002, five years after the program began at the national level. South Carolina has five other chapters—Greenville, Columbia, Aiken, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
Bringing the First Tee curriculum into the schools is a major initiative as it has previously only been offered through sessions at The Creek Golf Club and beginning this summer, at Woodfin Ridge Golf Club. Sign up for fall classes is open for kids five years old and older. Classes last an hour, and cost is $70 for an eight-week session. The First Tee of Spartanburg also accepts donations, including used golf clubs and accessories. For more information, call 864-583-7084, ext. 7.