Since 2010, local golf professional Dustin Smith has been making a difference in the lives of many young kids in the Coachella Valley.
Aside from his day job at the First Tee, Dustin created the Coachella Valley Chapter of the U.S. Kids Golf Tour, which is a national organization aimed at junior golf development through tournament golf. I have had the great fortune of witnessing the smiling faces and high level of competition first hand as my 8-year-old son, Austin, is the current Tour Champion in his age group (queue the proud dad).
From the moment the kids arrive at one of the tour sites, which often are some of the best private courses in the desert, they are treated like tour players. All players are allowed to have a caddie, which makes for a wonderful child/ parent experience. The Tour staff keeps all of the players on track and gives them an early taste of what competitive golf feels like.
All of the USGA rules of golf are followed. There are no “gimmies” and each child is responsible for attesting and signing their scorecard, which teaches the kids at a young age what golf is all about.
My son started playing the tour when he was 5 years old. He absolutely loves the competition and it has really helped him as a golfer. “The level of sportsmanship and friendship that is developed over the season is great,” says Dustin. “No matter the level of skill, we make sure each boy and girl has a positive experience.”
And what kids really love, the awards ceremony. Dustin puts a smile on every kid's face during the medal presentation.
“We make sure everyone gets acknowledged,” says Smith. “We have them line up in front of the audience to receive their medal, and the winner of each age group is asked to say a few words to their fans! It’s pretty awesome to watch a young golfer thank the tour and their parents, caddie.”
If you have a young boy or girl and live in the highly golf-centric desert, this is a great opportunity to help them enjoy a game they can play for the rest of their life!
Visit the U.S. Kids Golf Tour for more information.
David Woods has been the PGA Director of Golf at The Vintage Club in Indian Wells since 2007. His golf column appears monthly. Visit www.vintageclubsales.com for more information on The Vintage Club.
Follow David on Twitter: @davidwoodspga