It's more than just golf.
At the First Tee Program, part of the Little Buddies program hosted by the City of Brooksville Recreation Department, kids, most under the age of 10, are taking a five-week golf course, not just to learn about chips, drives, putts and all the like.
They're there, honestly, to learn how to become people, as well.
"It's really about life lessons," coach and local golf pro Mike Glowacke said. "And then they learn golf etiquette, such as no cheating with the scores or don't kick the ball around. People, when they see First Tee, they think it's all about golf, and that's just not true."
That's because, when the start of the first class rolled around Oct. 21, the kids weren't even holding golf clubs. Tina Nichols, former athlete extraordinaire, city of Brooksville recreation leader, and of course, head coach for all Little Buddies sports, had them interacting.
As part of First Tee, the first session always includes Target, and according to the Nichols and the First Tee philosophy, that includes teaching the little golfers how to conduct themselves, interact with others on and off the course and even shake hands.
"Implementing the First Tee program instills life skills with golf," Nichols said. "We do a meet and greet with each other and many of them this age don't know how to introduce themselves — or have many social skills for that matter or know how to interact with other kids.
"Really, we try to teach them respect for each other."
Nichols had golfers shake hands with each other, and one child even froze up and didn't want any part of that. But that's part of growing and learning said life lessons and skills with First Tee.
"Once we cover the life lessons, then it becomes about 50-50 with golf," Glowacke said. "A lot of kids don't grow up with incredibly great manners as we hope they would and this re-enforces that and now its not just mom and dad saying to do it — hey, all these kids have to do it, too.
"After a while, they start thinking this must be true and golf just adds to it because, after all, it'll teach them patience."
Of course, once they get a club in their hands, that's the part the kids love. Nichols and company will teach them every aspect of the game: swing, chipping, putting and so on. When the golfers first start, they use plastic clubs, as well as colored tennis balls that velcro to targets. Some get points, other just show improvement, but either way, most are clearly ready to swing away.
"I think it's pretty neat," Brooksville 7-year-old Jake Fugate said. "I liked the driving range because we got to hit real balls, and I think I'll learn how to play golf and I really want to do that."
Added Sean Patterson, 9, of Weeki Wachee: "I want to play golf so I can go out with my dad and play with him and his friends. I liked when we were able to get to the driving range and I know I'll learn discipline in the sport and focus."
Give these kids clubs and they're ready to imitate Tigers Woods, but Nichols realizes there's more to it than just driving the ball 300 yards. This helps kids open up to each other eventually.
And that, not shooting under par, is what makes it all worth while.
"After the five weeks, they really open up and interact with everyone," Nichols said. "And then by then, they'll know how to hold the club, how to play the game and every part from chipping to driving to putting. We can take them out to the course, play a couple holes and they'll love it — every minute of it."
Mike Camunas can be reached at mcamunas @sptimes.com or (352) 544-1771.