This spring, South Florida PGA Professional Mike Richards and his staff administered their third golf program for Parkland Buddy Sports at Parkland Golf and Country Club. Parkland Buddy Sports, Inc is a not for profit organization that offers well-structured sports programs for special needs children and young adults. Regardless of the mental and/or physical diagnosis, the Buddy program welcomes children ages 4 to young adult. The sports programs consist of once weekly (Saturday or Sunday) activities and games. Each player is paired for the entire season with their own “Buddy” who in most instances is a typical student volunteer for an entire season. Every six week the students have the opportunity to learn a new sport from experts in the industry. As stated above the recent program at Parkland Golf and Country Club lasted six-week, from March 4th– April 8th, and featured eighteen individuals. The individuals participating in the program learned all aspects of game including the long game, short game along with a putting course. Richards and his staff have had the honor of working with Parkland Buddies for three years now, and each year they are humbled by those they able to teach. “This program is changing lives, and I am fortunate to be a part of it. I hope that we have the opportunity to make golf an annual program within their curriculum” says Richards.
This “Smiling FORE Life” Program at St. Mary’s continues to amaze me. Every week something special seems to happen. More often than not, most of these smiling kids have never played golf before, not even miniature golf. And most times, they are just happy to be out of the rooms, outside in the fresh air away from medicine, beeping machines, and needles. What occurs next, after holding a golf club is what is so inspiring... I will always remember Mingi, such a sweet young lady in middle school who at first, like most, was very intimidated of trying her hand at golf. Also like most, she just wanted to watch at first. It wasn’t long before Mingi starting swinging the club with Ryan Alvino and myself. While she was still very nervous and not sure she could learn the game, she kept trying. I will never forget her smirk as she topped the ball saying, “I don’t think I will ever be able to hit the ball up in the air.” As Ryan and I continued to encourage her, one day something happened. We always knew she could do it, but she finally believed it herself! The day came when she smacked the ball up in the air and it never was topped again. We were so amazed because she not only got the ball up in the air continuously, but she did it with a good amount of force. Happily, Mingi’s time to go home was near and probably what she told us was the next best thing we could hear after her going home. Mingi said with the biggest smile, “I am going to try out for the golf team at my middle [...]