- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The same week Tiger Woods arrived in Washington to make a formal announcement about his tournament in the area, a lower profile but no less important press conference took place at Coolidge High School: Golf is coming to D.C. high schools.

A group of inspired volunteers and sponsors have banded together to bring golf to D.C. students. The hope is to introduce city youth not just to the game but to the opportunities it presents and the life skills it can teach.

“It will start here at Coolidge, but we eventually want to do one team in each ward,” said D.C. attorney and sports agent Jeff Fried, who was inspired by the dedication his son Brad, 16, showed playing golf at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. “It has all been based on my son’s experience with the Churchill golf team. I saw what it was doing for him as an individual, not just an athlete.”

Fried said he proposed the program to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who backed the effort and told students at the presentation Monday at Coolidge, “You can learn golf for free and do something you can enjoy for the rest of your life.”

For many of these kids, even the idea of playing golf probably is foreign. But that is part of the process — just getting them to think about something different.

“In a meeting with Adrian about helping inner city students, one of the ways I thought was to expose them to different opportunities,” Fried said. “It starts with golf, and from golf comes a lot: business, integrity. A lot of principles you need in life you can find on the golf course.”

That sounded good to Jimmy Garvin, president of Langston Legacy Golf Corp., which runs Langston, East Potomac and Rock Creek golf courses.

Garvin is the godfather of youth golf in the District, overseeing youth golf programs at Langston. (It would be nice if Tiger could find a way to do a golf clinic at the historic golf course, which was the first place in Washington blacks could play.) Garvin has worked with many kids over the years not only to teach them gold but to enable them to get college scholarships.

Garvin has been trying for years to get someone to understand the benefits of golf for minority youths, and now — in the same week Tiger comes to town — it has moved into the spotlight.

Garvin will be working with Fried and others to provide Langston and East Potomac for the program at Coolidge, which eventually will expand to other schools.

“We are going to make it work,” Garvin said. “This is a welcome change from the past. Golf will open up a lot of doors for African-American kids who have not been exposed to it before. Even in the business side of golf, there is a lot of opportunity for them: general managers of properties, superintendent of properties. There are places to work in the sport.”

Meanwhile, Garvin and Bill Scott of First Tee of Washington, who also will play an integral role in the Coolidge program, have been working to incorporate golf into the physical education program at D.C. middle schools.

“We’ve been trying to plant the seed there,” Garvin said. “I think the iron now is hot to strike with this program. So the development will now be from the top down.”

Scott said First Tee will start programs at 17 D.C. elementary schools next week.

“If we can get them there, they will be hooked — not just on the golf but maybe on the life skills programs as well,” he said.

Now, this is just golf, not some sort of soul-saving religion, though golf fanatics often treat the sport that way. But with all the work done for minority youths at Langston over the years, kids certainly take advantage of opportunities that wouldn’t have been presented to them otherwise.

Brad Fried, Jeff’s son, was at the Coolidge presentation Monday, and it was kind of a heady experience for him, watching what his own experience had launched.

“It feels kind of surreal,” he said. “I never would’ve thought that my love for golf would wind up helping other kids in D.C. schools.”

About 100 kids stayed after the assembly to take part in various golf exercises set up in the gym. Michonda Cwymas, a freshman at Coolidge, stood in line with her friends, waiting for her chance to try the putting green.

“I never played golf before,” she said. “But there is a first time for everything.”

For golf in Washington, this is a week of firsts, and a week to remember.

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