The club's founder wants to put golf clubs in the hands of youngsters who would not otherwise learn the sport.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Desmond Marrow lifts the club into his backswing, and lets it land with a crack on the waiting golf ball.
Desmond remains still as he watches the ball arc through the air and land in the grass.
About 175 feet.
Not bad for a beginner.
Desmond, 14, of Youngstown, is one of 35 teens learning to play golf through the new Clubs for Kids program at the Master Golf range on Southern Boulevard.
The club targets underprivileged youth from various groups who may not otherwise get a chance to learn the sport. These teens are part of the ACCESS -- Achieving Civic, Cultural and Education Success for Students -- group, through the Youngstown Area Community Action Council. Youngsters in ACCESS live below the poverty level.
While the teens may dream of someday having Tiger Woods' skill, adults say they gain other benefits from the program.
"It gives a lot of kids opportunities who've never been able to do things," said Pam Marrow, Desmond's mother. "I think it's an exciting program for the kids. Normally they'd be home riding the streets, playing video games. This is the first time they get to do things they never did in life."
Plans to continue
Darin Taylor Jr., 13, of Youngstown said he's having fun learning the new sport, getting tips on how to keep his back straight and hit. His mother, Regina Taylor, said Darin will likely continue with the sport.
"He's already said, 'I'm taking Dad golfing,'" she said.
Ray Anderson Jr., 15, of Boardman said he is also going to take his dad golfing.
"I never golfed before," Ray Jr. said. "It's a lot of fun."
Ray Anderson Sr., who interns with the ACCESS program as part of his social work curriculum at Youngstown State University, said he looks forward to golfing with his son.
"He comes here and he's made new friends and he's learning things I couldn't have taught him," he said. "A lot of these kids never thought about golf, maybe putt-putt once in a while, but golfing never."
He said the youngsters weren't sure they wanted to learn to play golf at first. Now, nine days into the program, they are excited about coming.
John Hamarik, owner of Master Golf and a former PGA Tour professional golfer, is the founder of the nonprofit Clubs for Kids.
He said he wants to put golf clubs in the hands of youngsters who would not otherwise be exposed to the sport. Through the 10-day, 20-hour program, each youth receives free lessons, a new set of clubs and golf bag and nine holes at the Whispering Pines Golf Course in Columbiana.
The club's mission is to encourage "the power to dream, the courage to believe, the strength to achieve and the discipline to attain."
"If I can get one of them to change their way of thinking in terms of goals and motivation and determination, then it's worth it," Hamarik said.
Hamarik plans to work with other youth groups, such as Heart Reach Ministries and after school programs, to reach a total of 160 children this year. He said he will target Youngstown-area youth.
The group is partially funded through a U.S. Golf Association Foundation grant, but Hamarik also plans to hold celebrity charity golf tournaments and seeks business sponsors.
"It's been an extreme success," Hamarik said. "To see the looks on their faces, and one said, 'This is the best summer I've ever had.'"
For more information on the Clubs for Kids program, call Master Golf at (330) 758-4373.