Thanks to extremely enthusiatic efforts by Mississippi County Equal Opportunity Commission community services director, C.W. Cummings, youths in the northeast Arkansas area have a chance, the funding and resources necessary to learn and participate in a sport they may otherwise not be able to do.
Cummings, a professional golf instructor from Blytheville, has, since the early 1980's, strived to set up golf programs for youths in the northeast Arkansas area and most recently, started the first USGA-sponsored youth golf program in Arkansas. Cummings remains willing and eager to help other northeast Arkansas communities join in his efforts to promote the game of golf with personal visits to interested leaders and any other help he can provide.
Says Cummings, "The game of golf will teach young athletes more than just the sport. Kids will learn responsibility and know that they can be only as good as they are willing to be. Golf is a human endeavor. The game is based on the skill of the individual participant and does not require the player to rely on other team members. The participants are their own team. They have to rely on their own skills to be successful. I can teach my students how to hit the ball, but I can't hit the ball for them. It's up to the individual to take the techniques that I have taught them and use that information to the best of their abilities."
Cummings is the organizer of the most prestige youth golfing program in the state.
Last year, the Mississippi County EOC Junior Golf Program received a grant from the USGA in the amount of $40,000 to help fund a program that will instruct Mississippi County youths many aspects of the game of golf.
The MCEOC Junior Golf Program is the first and largest of the three USGA-sponsored programs in the state. After Cummings' program was formed in 1991, Little Rock and Fort Smith followed suit with programs of their own.
Currently, the MCEOC is negotiating with the city of Blytheville to take over Oaks Golf Course at Eaker Air Force Base and make it an official First Tee course. First Tee is a World Golf Foundation initiative that, with officers from the USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA and Augusta National Golf Club, provides funding for creating and managing affordable and accessible golf facilities to primarily serve those who have not previously had exposure to the game and its positive values.
"Our goal is to have the Oaks course conform to all First Tee standards which include having practice grounds, indoor practice areas and regularly scheduled classes," Cummings stated. "Once it is up and running, it will be a 10 1/2 month program. Our long term goal is to provide an accessible and affordable golf facility for all communities in northeast Arkansas."
Cummings says he is eager and willing to help other communities in northeast Arkansas get involved with the MC Youth Golf Program or to start organizations of their own. He says, "All it takes is one parent or a group leader to call and ask me to come and talk to them. I will help in any way that I can and give the advise they need to get a program running."
Cummings says golf is a very effective tool to teach youths about life. "Golf will teach kids the responsibility they need to face adversities in their lives. Golf is a unique sport because the game doesn't know the player's age, sex or size. It is a character building sport. Tiger Woods started playing at a young age because a parent showed leadership to him. I'm hoping that parents in other northeast Arkansas communities also take a leadership role and help get other youths involved with the sport.
"There is a lot of national support and funding available," he added. "Parents don't have to be golfers themselves, children can learn the sport on their own and with that, achieve their own personal growth and development."
The MCEOC Youth Golf Program has received over $60,000 in funding over the past two years.
There is no fee for participants of the program. Participants receive a USGA rule book, First Swing' golf instruction book, golf balls for play and practice, repair tools, ball spotters and one or more golf clubs to take home for play and practice.
Persons interested in more information may contact Cummings at 870-532-2348 ext. 35 or via pager at 870-762-7965.