At 14, Kendall Walker is considering golf as a profession. The rising freshman at Northwestern High School will compete in his first tournament Saturday at Winthrop University's golf course.
Kendall and a group of about 25 area inner-city youth have been training since March under the guidance of Sherman Porterfield and six other volunteers.
Porterfield is the founder and director of tournament sponsor Operation Help One Another, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to mentor and educate youth.
Porterfield and the other volunteers have been coaching the teens on Sundays at the Winthrop and Carolina Crossing golf courses. Most of them have never played golf before.
"It was nice," Kendall said, describing the golf course, "The grass is really green and it's hilly, but sometimes it's hard to see the flag pole."
Porterfield said "99 percent" of the kids who are competing in the tournament never have been on a golf course. "The initial experience has been priceless to them," he said.
Porterfield said exposing young people to the positive resources of the community such as a golf course helps them think bigger and seek out their full potential.
On Saturday morning, the players will be treated to lunch and a final golf lesson before the tournament begins at 1 p.m. The winner will receive a $500 college scholarship.
"It's an incentive for parents to begin to point their child in the right direction," Porterfield said.
Kendall, who has played football and basketball, said he finds golf "calm, relaxing and quiet."
Kendall's friend Jared McIlwain, 13, also will play Saturday. "There's going to be a lot of competition," Jared said.
Jared said he's looking forward to driving the golf cart, but it's the improvement in his game that's really meant a lot to him. "At first, it was hard to hit the ball. It looks easier on TV," said Jared, a rising freshman at Rock Hill High. "Now, I hit the ball more than I used to."
Jared's mother, Michelle Loney, said golf has been good for her son. "It's something different. He hasn't been exposed to it. I think he's found another niche," she said.
Kendall also has noticed an improvement in his game.
"At first, it was hard to hit the ball," Kendall said. Now, he is playing at one or two strokes over par.
"I will win the tournament," he said. "I have confidence in myself."