Local Golf Notes

First Tee golf program is more than a youth program

bspear@thestate.comOctober 26, 2013 

Go by the James Clyburn Golf Center on Slighs Avenue off the Harden Street extension on Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday to watch the future in the making. There’s golf, of course, but there’s more.

Joe Beaman and his cadre of volunteers will be conducting classes for youngsters in Columbia’s First Tee program with a goal of teaching life skills and healthy habits through golf.

And, Beaman says, the program is flourishing.

“We have added new 83 kids this year,” he said. “We give the kids a chance to discover answers. We want them to learn the positives of being more active, to discover there’s more to do than sitting around the house. We work on the positive aspects of life.”

That’s a synopsis of the national First Tee program’s mission statement: “To improve the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.” The program focuses on youngsters from all walks of life.

Beaman worked at the facility at its opening in 2001, left in 2006 and returned a year ago to become director of both the Golf Center and the First Tee program.

“A lot of people don’t realize we have an in-town golf facility and we’re working to increase awareness,” Beaman said. “We’re seeing some progress in both areas; the number of (First Tee) kids are up and business is up. But we’re not where we want to be. We always want to add more young people, plus we’re making improvements all the time and right now we’re working on the practice greens.”

None of the First Tee volunteers are paid, and they include pros — Robin All and Brenda Barb — and community members. “They’re people who are giving back to golf,” Beaman said. And, he added,” We can always use more volunteers.”

Two members of the First Tee recently played — and played well, Beaman said — in the state high school Upper State tournament. Two also competed in a First Tee tournament in Augusta last August.

To raise both funding and awareness of the First Tee program’s benefits, the First Tee Shootout will be Nov. 3 at Oak Hills Golf Club. The two-player, captain’s choice competition is the senior project of students in USC’s sports management program. “More volunteers to help the program,” Beaman said.

For information on the Shootout, call Beaman at (803) 255-8920.

Byrd on comeback trail

Beginning the season on a major medical extension, Johnathan Byrd took a step toward regaining full PGA Tour status during the Shriners Hospital for Childen Open in Las Vegas last weekend.

Byrd, who grew up in Columbia and earned All-American honors at Clemson, underwent wrist surgery in the fall of 2012 and did not play until March. He made five cuts in 16 starts, earning $428,966. A medical extension gives players who missed time due to injury extra starts to match No. 125 on the previous year’s money list.

Byrd needs $166,517 in his first 10 starts this year to regain full status. He picked up $13,320 in Las Vegas. He opened with a first-round 63 that included nine birides, and eagle and a bogey, but a final 75 dropped him to a tie for 57th.

The most memorable of Byrd’s five PGA tournament titles came in Las Vegas when he made a hole-in-one to win the 2010 tourney in a playoff.

Welden was fixture at Caledonia

The golf community lost one of its favorite people with the death of Todd Welden, the only head pro at Caledonia Golf and Fish Club since the facility opened in 1994. He passed away Sunday after a brief battle with lung cancer.

A native of Iowa, Welden served as professional at Pawleys Plantation 1989-93 before moving to Caledonia in August 1993, five months before the facility opened. His expertise helped make Caledonia into one of the most outstanding golf experiences in the state. Caldeonia, designed by the late Mike Strantz, is consisently voted one of S.C.’s top courses.

“He was instrumental in really helping me guide the entire marketing plan to position Caledonia as one of the premier courses,” Caledonia general manager John Springs said.

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