As a Tiger Woods fan, 14 year-old Kendall Walker wants to be like him. Kendall took his first steps to that goal on Saturday at Winthrop University's Golf Course, where he and a group of about 25 inner-city youths played in their first golf tournament.
The tournament was part of a program of Operation Help One Another, a non-profit organization that aims to mentor and educate youth. The project targets kids ages 8 to 18 deemed at-risk because they might live in a low-income neighborhood or might be in single-parent homes.
Before the tournament began, the youngsters had lunch at the Winthrop golf course together with their parents and the organizers.
After eating two hamburgers and a hot dog and drinking two cans of coke, Kendall said he was ready to play.
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Holding a bottle of water and a golf bag, Kendall walked through the 90-degree heat to the first hole he was going to play together with Jaylen Eloby, 12, and Desiree Larkins, 10.
"Ladies go first," Jaylen said, and Desiree got ready to play.
After playing a par three, Kendall scored nine, Jaylen eight and Desiree five.
"It's a bad way to start over," Kendall said.
Fighting over who would carry the golf bag, the three golfers went for the next hole.
All about opportunity
The young players have practiced on Sundays since March at the Winthrop and Carolina Crossing golf courses instructed by Sherman Porterfield, the founder and director of the organization, and six volunteers.
"We are trying to give an opportunity to these [inner-city] kids to be exposed to golf," Porterfield said. "Normally they wouldn't have the opportunity to play golf."
The organization provides the youngsters with free transportation, lunches and equipment, such as clubs, golf shirts and shoes. The project was sponsored by Wal-Mart, Williams and Fudge and Showmars. Winthrop University also helped by allowing the kids to practice on its golf course without charges.
"It's pretty good that we got to play for free," said Kendall, a ninth-grader at Northwestern. "He [Porterfield] gave us the opportunity to play something we had never played before. It was really fun."
Golf, Porterfield said, will help the young players get contacts for future jobs since many business people play the so-called "gentleman's sport."
"Golf is a life game," he said. "The kids are excited about it and the parents are."
Grayson Collins, 16, a junior at Lancaster High, won the tournament and will receive a $500 scholarship for the college of his choice. The goal is to "plant the seeds in the parents' mind" that their kids can go to college, Porterfield said.
Sandra Gordon, Kendall's mother, said she thinks the scholarship is a good idea.
"I think it's wonderful," she said. "[Golf] opens up more opportunities to go to college."