just a few thoughts brought home from Jimmy Clay municipal golf course

I had a really interesting round yesterday at my home course. I got paired up with the Assistant Dean of Students from Texas State University, San Marcos and two juniors from Crockett High School here in Austin. The Assistant Dean (nickname: Lem) was a fairly new player and high handicapper (not as bad as me, though we both tore up our scorecards on the 10th hole), but the high schoolers — both juniors and members of the school golf team — were excellent players. They were making plenty of pars, even draining birdies here and there, and handling the course with a maturity way beyond their years. They were also respectful and polite to us old folks, and knowledgeable about the rules and etiquette of the game.

Lem and I were especially impressed with the quality and refinement of their swings. We asked them if they had a really good coach, which elicited deep laughter from both of them.

“Aw, no way,” one of them replied. “He mostly just drives us to the matches and sleeps until it’s time to take us home.”

Lem and I were flabbergasted. “Well, how long have you guys been playing?” we asked.

Our jaws nearly hit the grass when we heard that each of them had taken up the game less than two years ago. Both of them spent one afternoon each weekend parking and cleaning golf carts in exchange for unlimited free access to the course, so they worked up their skills mostly by practicing like crazy, working with their teammates (they consistently gave each other incisive comments about their swings when shots went astray), and (I assumed) watching plenty of golf or maybe reading golf magazines.

On our way “up the fairway” (read: “into the rough”) together, Lem and I talked a little about our playing partners. We both felt that these two had really strong chances of getting athletic scholarships to get into college (and the fact that they’re Hispanic couldn’t hurt; that’s a fact right now whatever your opinion of admissions ethnicity preferences and whatnot). We were sorely disappointed, however, with the fact that they had no real coach and no real direction. When Lem mentioned that they should be thinking ahead and considering the golf-scholarship route, they kind of shrugged it off — like most kids their age, long-term planning is not exactly a top priority.

After I looked at those Crockett HS stats, and saw that the school’s Hispanic dropout rate is 23% (compared to 6.4% for the school as a whole), I kept thinking how much those kids need a little shove in the right direction. Given my pathetic swing and stratospheric front-nine score, I knew they weren’t going to take me too seriously… so just in case the right person is reading this: if you live in Austin, and you’ve got some skills on the course and the ability to motivate young people, consider volunteering to coach the Crockett HS golf team. You’ve probably got nothing to lose by giving it a try except a bit of spare time, and good kids like my playing partners yesterday have a better future to gain.

got something to say about that?

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