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Young golfer hits big time

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Opportunities abound for youth to hit links

By Mike Forster

       Golf is one of those games that can be played well into one’s later years.

It can also be played at a surprisingly young age.

Such is the case of Isaac Simmons.  The nine-year-old Huddleston resident is playing golf at a level that puts him among some heady company.

In fact, he’s heading to Pinehurst, N.C., in early August, to play in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.

Isaac earned his shot by carding a 41 (over 9 holes) at Devils Ridge Country Club (N.C.) in mid-June.

The rising fourth grader at Huddleston Elementary will be among some new faces.  Players from the UK, Philippines, Columbia, Panama and many other countries are expected to compete.

Isaac’s father, Scott Simmons, attributes his son’s success to dedication and opportunity.

“For a kid to play at a high level, you have to put in the time,” noted Simmons, an assistant principal at Staunton River High School.  “But, before he even stepped foot on a golf course, he was ready--from all the hitting of balls we’d done in the backyard.”

Simmons was surprised to find avenues into the sport when Isaac first expressed interest in golf.

“I knew U.S. Kids Golf had opportunities,” he recalled,  “but we were also looking for something local.”

The Scott Robertson Memorial Tour helped fill that bill. 

The Robertson tour is run in conjunction with First Tee of Roanoke Valley.

First Tee is an organization that is dedicated to building youngsters’ interest in golf and doing so in an affordable fashion.

First Tee of Roanoke Valley (www.thefirstteeroanokevalley.org) has over 1,200 participants, so far, in 2009, according to Mary Beth McGirr, Director of Programming and Instruction.

“We have participants from Bedford to Blacksburg and Botetourt to Franklin County,” observed McGirr.  “We teach all kids, no matter their economic standing.”

First Tee has a final summer camp at the end of July, before kicking into its fall season.

In the summer, the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame   (www.rvghof.org) junior golf association has an entire tour in the Roanoke area.

No doubt, the opportunities are out there, for a fun and affordable introduction to the game.  Just like Isaac had.