2003: Business - Golf 20/20 to spearhead physical education initiative
Golf 20/20, an industry-backed initiative to increase participation, plans to test a golf program this fall as part of the physical education curriculum at 80 to 100 elementary schools around the country.
Eight to 10 school districts will participate in the National School Golf Program. The list of schools has not been finalized, but Ruffin Beckwith, executive director of Golf 20/20, said it could grandfather in some schools, such as 30 in Chicago, that already include golf in their curriculum.
At present a tiny percentage of schools in the United States teach golf, according to Beckwith. He said concerns about safety and golf being too difficult to teach have hamstrung previous efforts to incorporate the sport into physical education classes.
Beckwith said Golf 20/20 plans to fund about half of the test sites and the school districts will support the rest. PGA and LPGA professionals with backgrounds in physical education probably will be enlisted to train teachers on the golf curriculum. Beckwith said Golf 20/20 will contribute about $100,000 for the test program. That money comes from a pool supported by the PGA and LPGA tours, the USGA, PGA, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and the National Golf Course Owners Association.
“This is the first attempt to look at a structured, nationwide, focused program,” said Beckwith. He added that the golf curriculum would be “less about teaching the golf swing to somebody than teaching the kid to have the basic fundamentals. . . . It’s more to make sure that a kid’s first experience (with golf) is fun and memorable.”
The hope is such an approach will keep children involved in golf as they grow into adults.
The elementary school program will not use real golf equipment. Beckwith said one possibility is to use equipment such as that sold by SNAG (Starting New at Golf), which is roughly akin to a Wiffle-ball version of golf. SNAG includes all of the elements of golf – full shots, pitching, chipping and putting – but players typically can hit the modified plastic equipment no further than 50 yards. Beckwith said using SNAG equipment should address safety concerns.
Benna S. Cawthorn, a former youth sports program director, has been hired to run the program.
The initiative will be limited to elementary schools initially. If successful, Beckwith envisions the program possibly being expanded to middle and high schools and adding a competitive element – “almost a Little League kind of thing” or intramural golf, Beckwith said.