Golf academy brings kids to the green

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JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS —  When Dave Rivard started the DeFuniak Springs Golf Academy last summer, he wanted to make the game more accessible.

Now he’s coaching more than 60 students who are learning to enjoy the game.

“I started this academy when I heard that there hadn’t been a girl on the Walton High School golf team in four years,” he said.

Since he started the golf academy, which meets every Saturday morning at the DeFuniak Springs Country Club, he’s also started to teach the Walton Middle School and Walton High School golf teams. The middle school team now has 14 girls and 13 boys, and the high school team has 12.

Rivard said he hopes the students will continue golfing through college and maybe even earn a scholarship. The NCAA estimates that every year 200 college golf scholarships for young women go unclaimed, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times in December 2017.

“My biggest goal is to be a feeder program for the middle school and high school teams,” he said. “And then I’ll start scouring the Southeast for scholarships. I have five sisters. I know there’s so much for boys to do sports-wise and girls don’t have football. This could help open the door for more scholarships. That’s what we’re really after.”

Golf has been a good source of networking in his professional career, Rivard said, which is something he wants to pass on to older students as they prepare for college.

“It’s like getting a three-hour uninterrupted interview with someone,” he said.

While Rivard started the program to help introduce more girls to golf, boys are more than welcome. And the best part is that the program is free. Rivard takes donations of gently-used golf clubs which he shortens and re-grips so they fit students properly. 

“We’re always taking donations,” he said. “Kids are growing so fast we have to upgrade equipment.”

The biggest benefit of the academy is seeing the kids’ confidence grow as they learn to handle adversity, Rivard said.

“You see it when they hit one and their eyes light up,” he said. “One time, one of my students got a hole-in-one. We called his father on the phone right there.”

For more information about the program, find DeFuniak Springs Golf Academy on Facebook.

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