Tom Watson’s mentorship initiative goals to provide ‘lifetime’ golfers

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Tom Watson with a gaggle of First Tee of Kansas Metropolis members final month.

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Lengthy earlier than he received the primary of his eight main titles, Tom Watson didn’t know find out how to grip a membership. It’s the identical for each golfer. You’ve acquired to begin someplace.  

Watson was fortunate. He picked up the sport early.

As a distinguished supporter of junior golf, he has spent a lot of his profession serving to others do the identical.

“It’s one thing we all the time discuss — it’s a lifetime sport,” Watson says. “And that’s one thing we will impress upon the youngsters — or, not less than, the mother and father. What occurs when they’re now not enjoying basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball? What are they going to do after they’re 30, 40, 50? Wouldn’t it’s good to present them the abilities and fervour for the sport now?”

Turning that message into significant motion has been a part of Watson’s M.O. for the reason that early Nineteen Seventies, when his personal profession was on the rise however one other facet of the sport was in decline: caddie applications — and necessary pathway into golf for a lot of — have been more and more being changed by carts.

Watson anxious in regards to the implications.

“I all the time felt that caddies have been the gamers of the longer term,” he says. “Because the caddie yards acquired depleted, I assumed, ‘My god, we’ve acquired to do extra to get children concerned with the sport.”

Over time, Watson, who’s now 73, has thrown his weight behind a variety of junior golf initiatives, together with the First Tee and Youth on Course. The previous teaches golf fundamentals, together with core values; the latter lowers the price of entry to the sport. Watson has believed in each since their inception.

However he additionally sensed that extra may very well be executed. Easy accessibility and affordability weren’t sufficient. As soon as children have been within the recreation, you needed to encourage them to maintain at it.

“And so I began fascinated about my historical past and stated, ‘How did I begin?” Watson says. “Properly, my dad gave me the basic expertise, after which he took me to the golf course, and I performed with him. The final word mentor, proper? So, why don’t we begin a program the place children who’ve developed some expertise can go to a course and play with somebody like my dad — a mentor with a ardour for the sport?”

Enter Watson Hyperlinks, a novel initiative, established by its namesake in his hometown of Kansas Metropolis.

True to Watson’s intent, this system emulates his personal childhood expertise by giving junior golfers, ages 10 to 18, free entry to pick out golf programs, accompanied by an grownup mentor who exhibits them the ropes as they play, sharing insights on each facet of the sport, from chipping and placing to etiquette and technique. Each mentor undergoes an intensive background examine earlier than being paired with a junior, and tee instances are coated by course donations and assist from Watson’s charitable basis.


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After a check run in 2022, Watson Hyperlinks is within the throes of its first full season, which is able to stretch for 22 weeks till mid-October. The response has been sturdy, with 65 mentors and 90 children signing up inside days of this system’s launch. The objective, Watson says, is to enroll upward of 200 junior golfers by the tip of the yr.

At the same time as he grows this system domestically, Watson hopes to copy it nationally. He has already had discussions with business leaders about launching comparable pilot applications in different cities.

Although Watson Hyperlinks at present operates below the umbrella of the First Tee Better Kansas Metropolis, Watson says this system isn’t a lot a part of the First Tee as it’s a complement to it. 

“I’d hope the First Tee would see that as an adjunct to their program,” Watson says. “They educate these children expertise, however then lose them as a result of they don’t have a spot to play. The best way I have a look at it, that is going to be a big bridge. It’s going to create an inflow of children who study the sport and develop a ardour for it, and even when they provide up the sport for a time, they’ll all the time have these expertise, to allow them to all the time come again to it. That’s the objective. To create lifetime golfers.”

For extra info, go to firsteekc.org

Josh Sens

Golf.com Contributor

A golf, meals and journey author, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Journal contributor since 2004 and now contributes throughout all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Finest American Sportswriting. He’s additionally the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Enjoyable But: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.

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