Pro Kids Golf Academy Gives Players a Certain Glow

Fluorescent tubing lights up the club of a youngster playing during the Pro Kids 24-hour Golf-a-Thon at Colina Park Golf Course.

Pro Kids Golf Academy has held a special place in my heart since it was created 17 years ago. Pro Kids partnered with the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified School District in 1994 and moved into the Colina Park Golf Course in City Heights to bring golf to inner-city kids. Pro Kids began with ambitious goals, its mission to “challenge underserved youth to excel in life by promoting character development, life skills and values through education and the game of golf.”

Playing partners are appropriately still with a member of their group addressing the ball on the tee.

Pro Kids has not only reached its goals, it has exceeded them. By leaps and bounds. Thousands of kids have had their lives positively impacted by the organization. Some kids have gone on to play golf in high school and college, but it has made an even greater impact on them in the classroom and other aspects of life.

Pro Kids’ initial success led it to becoming one of the models for The First Tee (Pro Kids became The First Tee of San Diego), an international organization with a similar mission. The par-3 Colina course and facility has been transformed into a showplace since Pro Kids took over. The condition of the course now rivals some of the county’s full-size courses and it is treated with pride and respect by its young players. In 2001, a 7,000-square foot Learning Center was constructed with the assistance of the Building Industry Association, providing an environment conducive to studying and learning.

I enjoy checking in with Pro Kids every so often to see what’s going on. This past weekend was its second annual 24-hour Golf-a-Thon. Seventy-five people — most of them kids — participated in the fundraiser, earning money from sponsors for each hole they played. The event is expected to raise close to $35,000 toward the construction of a new Pro Kids/First Tee facility in Oceanside. Groundbreaking for the project is to begin next month.

Having a pull cart is essential on the course when your golf bag is nearly as big as you are.

The most exciting part of the event was when darkness fell. The fairways and greens were lined with green glow sticks (hazards were outlined with red glow sticks) and the players were equipped with blue, red, green and yellow glow balls. It was impressive to see the enthusiasm and energy displayed by the kids, who were all determined to play from dusk to dawn.

“It’s exciting for them to be able to play at night, to be able to sleep here,” said Dana Nitti, director of development for Pro Kids, who had some sleeping bags on hand in case anyone was overcome by exhaustion.

Lloyd Kay, a 14-year-old freshman from Patrick Henry marveled at the opportunity to tour Colina at night, saying “I don’t think I’ll ever look at the golf course the same way.”

Supporters Kim and Paula Eggleston of Rancho Santa Fe pledged $1,000 for each hole-in-one during the event. There were nine aces — including two by La Jolla High freshman Sean Payne — among the 587 rounds (10,566 holes) played on the 1,567-yard course. Payne played 43 rounds (774) over the 24 hours, breaking his record of 41 rounds played last year. Like the other kids, he was most excited about playing at night.

“Seeing all these golf balls flying around, they’re like comets,” said Payne. “I feel like I’m in space.”

With Pro Kids, the sky’s the limit.

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About Kirk

About: Kirk Kenney

I first gripped a baseball at the age of six. The game has had its grip on me ever since. I enjoy watching and writing about Little League, high school and college as much or more as the major leagues. I would be consumed by golf if it wasn’t for this voice in my head whispering “pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage, pay the mortgage.” I enjoying reading a good book, but I’m more likely to watch a good movie. I was born and raised in San Diego. If not, I’m sure I would have moved here.

What would you do on your ideal San Diego Day?

I’d join three of my buddies at sunrise in the first group off the tee at Torrey Pines, then head up the coast a few miles to enjoy Mexican food for lunch at Las Olas in Cardiff. We’d drop down to Del Mar after that, grab our Boogie boards (waiting an hour after eating, of course, before going in the water) and catch a few waves, then wash off the sand and head downtown to Petco Park to catch a Padres game.

What is your favorite San Diego outdoor activity?

There’s no way to pick just one. It doesn’t get much better here than playing a round of golf — especially a twilight round where the last putt falls just as the sun sets — because you can do it year-round. My wife and I also enjoy kayaking on Mission Bay or riding bikes along Crown Point Shores.

Do you prefer burgers and beer or linguine and red wine?

Burger and a beer. Make that a root beer. Nothing beats Mug Old Fashioned poured over two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Latest music purchases for my iPod player are...

Crazy Heart: The Weary Kind (movie soundtrack)

Lady Antebellum: Need You Now

Eagles: Long Road Out of Eden

1 thought on “Pro Kids Golf Academy Gives Players a Certain Glow

  1. Fun to watch that fluorescent tubing that glows in the dark.My kids would love that. Aside from the fun activity golf offers it also provide well rounded health benefits for the kids.

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