Whether you can admit it or not, golf is an old folks’ game.
Think about it. It’s an excuse for retired men to continue wearing their respective khakis and collared shirts. Most of them were probably bank tellers or managers of some sort (that’s a dig at my Uncle John).
No matter what golf course you go to, the old timers are always there — most of the time they are benefiting from the senior rate. I don’t blame them. But, seriously, think about it. Golf is a game for the people who are financially stable, and have the time to get out to the course. It’s an expensive game. It’s certainly a burden on my wallet, but then again so is Chinese food.
That’s why I’m here this week to commend Emanon Country Club and Supporting Autism Families Everywhere (SAFE) for what they’ve been doing the past few years.
This past Monday, nearly 70 young golfers took part in the Kids Supporting Kids Golf Tournament held in Falls. The event, which is open to all children both autistic and non-autistic, gave youngsters a chance to get out on the course and take up a sport that is mostly reserved for the old-hearted.
It’s also a chance for children that are underprivileged to get a chance to play a game they might love. Golf is one of the very few sports where physically or mentally challenged patrons can play.
Emanon Country Club shut down the entire course late in the afternoon and catered to the young players the rest of the day. The youngest golfers played the first four holes at Emanon. After each hole, they got a prize. The older golfers played nine holes. Everyone was treated to a pizza party following play and Captain Don’s Chilly Willy Ice Cream Truck made an appearance. Every young golfer received a prize.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without Emanon and the volunteers,” co-chair of the tournament Kelly Lyons Stevens said. “We do this out of the goodness of our hearts and the kids enjoy it.”
Lyons Stevens evens pays for some of the prizes out of her own pocket.
Seven years ago, Lyons Stevens and Mildred Petrucci brought this idea to Emanon’s board and the rest is history. The first year, Lyons Stevens said she had eight players — then 20, then 30. The past two years, there were nearly 70 young players learning the game.
Maybe that’s what it takes to get young players on the golf course: pizza and ice cream. But these players were the best kinds of players; the players who didn’t get ticked off when they flushed a 6-iron into the trees. I also saw a player take a swing and the club go flying 50 yards down the fairway. No big deal.
I saw most of the players on the first four holes. Admittedly, I didn’t watch the players on the other side of the course because it was hot, and there are a lot of hills behind the clubhouse.
What I saw was impressive — not even from a social standpoint, but from a golf standpoint. This one youngster, maybe 5 or 6, made his way to the fourth tee box. The fourth hole at Emanon is a par-3 and plays 146 yards from the ladies tees. I think that’s where they played from. Anyways, this fella stepped up and hit a dandy. The ball came right down the stick and ended up on the back of the green.
I was jealous. I was jealous because he hit a nice shot. I was jealous that I was still working. I was jealous he was going to get Captain Don’s ice cream.
Once his ball stopped, he sprinted faster than a rocket full of monkeys to the green and proceeded to two-putt. Boom! Par. It’s that easy. He didn’t care, though. His smile went from ear-to-ear and it was on to the next hole. It made my day.
This event raises some money for SAFE, but the real money comes later this month.
The Emanon Day for Autism Tournament will be held Saturday, Aug. 22 and is open to all golfers.
“That’s when we really get some money for SAFE,” Lyons Stevens said. “It’s a great tournament.”
SAFE is based in Wilkes-Barre and is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization supporting families affected by autism. SAFE’s mission is to help people with autism and their families live full and independent lives. Monday’s tournament did just that.
Chances are I will still get a little worked up on the golf course when something doesn’t go my way. But if I close my eyes and think real hard, maybe these kids can help me straighten out. Think they can help me straighten out my driver?