“They’ve been doing a good job and learning everyday,” Spalding said. “The mistakes that they made, they got rid of those, then they realized if I do it this way, I get results. It’s been a great journey.”
For three days during each of the past three weeks, the golfers from ages 4 to 18 have been taking lessons from Spaulding, who retired after coaching golf at M.L. King High in Lithonia, at the Cotton Fields Golf Course in McDonough.
“On this end of Atlanta, there are not many programs for minority kids,” Spaulding said. “When you’re dealing with the Atlanta area, you have the John A. White Golf Course. You have different courses out there like first tee but they only cater to the kids out there.
“The kids in this area don’t get that opportunity so I wanted to develop a program in this area so we can get the kids here involved in golf and they don’t have to travel all the way to Atlanta to get experience.”
But the kids have been to other courses such as Brown’s Mill in Atlanta, Providence Club in Monroe, Eagle’s Brooke Golf and Country Club in Locust Grove and Crystal Lake Golf & Country Club in Hampton.
“We will go around and expose these kids to different courses and different areas of Atlanta so they can see the different lifestyles and what goes on in those areas at golf courses,” Spaulding said.
Spaulding said he also likes to take young players to the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons and receive some training from Director of Instruction Jack Lumpkin.
“I’m from the St. Simon’s area so I usually take a few kids down to that area to see what golf is like on the coast,” Spaulding said.
During the sessions at Cotton Fields, the children learn what a golf course is supposed to look like and how to maintain that course. Then, they design a tee box and the landscape.
“We teach the kids the business side of the golf course so when they grow up they can get jobs at golf courses while they are in high school,” Spaulding said.
Afterwards, the campers learn how to stretch and swing the clubs properly. Spaulding also focuses on making sure the golfers see the club hit the ball. Then, they conclude the day with some type of competition on the driving range or putting green.
“Everything ends up with the kids competing and showing the skills that they learned during prior sessions,” Spaulding said.
One of the campers Spaulding said he is very impressed with and sees loads of potential in is 4-year-old Ariel Collins.
“Anybody who sees Ariel right now at 4 years old would be amazed,” Spaulding said. “In about five years she will start being recruited. She is going to be the face of this program. She is focusing on what is happening right in front of her and that is the key to golf. She is more focused on hitting the ball and that is why she is so successful.”
Tawana Collins, Ariel’s mother, said her daughter received her first set of golf clubs on her third birthday. Anthony Collins, Ariel’s father, also plays golf.
“She has a passion for the game,” Spaulding said. “Most kids have to develop a passion but she’s already got it so you won’t have to teach her about going to the golf course. She wants to practice every day and those are the kids you can take to that next level.”
Spalding said he believes Ariel Collins has a chance to achieve just as much and possibly more than his daughter Breanna Spaulding, who plays at Columbia College in South Carolina and is a graduate of Dutchtown High.