I was headed to Avondale Golf Course to meet Dave Bowlan, as I was going to be assisting his Summer golf clinic for junior members. There were 11 children in attendance and I was quietly pleased that five were Fairways cadets. A 45% increase in three weeks!
For the uninitiated, Fairways is the not-for-profit I've co-founded to sponsor disadvantaged juniors whose families can't afford membership, lessons and range access. Through this funding, we believe we can help the golf industry too. We're not asking for free memberships for the kids. We're paying for them.
Sam and Nate Shaw, our first cadets, were part of the group, and for the first time, I was meeting our newest members, the Campbell children. They are 12 year old twins John and Tara, and their nine year old sister, Kate. Their mother, Gloria, wasn't there, but I was hoping to chat with her after the clinic.
While I do not profess to be a golf expert, I gave the kids tips as they tried to hit the ball collector being driven about on the range. That's always fun, but you do feel a bit for the driver.
The weather was fantastic. The juniors were all lined up on the range with their tiny clubs and I laughed with them as they hit some fantastic shots. There were also some terrible shots but I happily said I do exactly the same thing all the time. My handicap is still in the mid-twenties.
I caught up with Sam and Nate as they boys continued to do their best to hit the now stationary ball collector. The driver had obviously had enough. Since Fairways sponsored them, they have been playing and practicing as often as possible, and they've been loving it!
We headed to the 18th green for a chip off - girls versus boys (the girls won) and as everyone collected their bags, I sought out the Campbells for a chat. I introduced myself and asked about their golf.
John and Tara have been playing for a couple years now and I do believe Dave’s teaching can be seen in their swings, as it can in mine. It had been Kate’s first ever lesson, but she is a natural athlete and had been connecting well with the ball. Kate hadn't started playing with her twin siblings because she's a "goofy footer" (left-handed golfer), and the family didn’t have any clubs for her to use. Fortunately the PEI Golf Association came to the rescue with some funding to pay for a set. You just add Fairways' golf access, and hey presto, a brand new junior golfer!
The kids didn't know they were being sponsored yet, so I told them about Fairways, our sponsorship of juniors all over the world and then said they were our newest cadets. They looked shocked then broke out in huge grins. I also told them Fairways has arranged lessons for the whole year, including during Winter with Dave on the simulators at All About Golf. They excitedly started walking home - they live across the road from the golf course - and said I would phone their mother later.
When I rang Gloria to speak with her about the children and their lesson, she said the kids were "beyond excited" when they got home. Apparently it took 20 minutes for them to calm down before she could understand what they were talking about. They had already filled the calendar with their next lessons and had tears of excitement when they were telling her about the winter lessons on the All About Golf simulators. Gloria told me she was forever grateful and following a hard year - she had been battling cancer - was very happy to see her children so enthusiastic about something.
Sharing our love of the game is why we started Fairways, and making children happy through golf is exactly what we set out to do.