"First Tee" golfer told to teach at another park

By: Victoria Maranan Email
By: Victoria Maranan Email

SHERMAN, TX-A Texoma man is teaching kids from low-income families about the game of golf. He said the program is a hole in one for Texoma kids, but not everyone agreed. In fact some say it's a hazard. Victoria Maranan explains.
Walter Whitfield was teaching area kids how to play golf through "First Tee" a program started by Tiger Woods, that gives underprivileged kids a chance to learn the game. But he said, recently, he was told he can no longer teach golf at the park.

"I've been here probably eight years helping people, children, adults that want to learn the game and all of a sudden come up to me and attack me with that I can't do this," he said.

Walter Whitfield said city officials told him he couldn't teach golf at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.

"I'm just trying to help someone, I'm not trying to hurt anyone," he said.

Sherman Parks and Recreation's Kevin Winkler said playing golf at that park could pose a safety hazard to other people.

"There's a playground within just a few feet of where he hits. There are pavilions there, a lot of people take their kids out there throughout the day," he said.

Sherman Parks and Recreation told Whitfield he can run First Tee at Pecan Grove Park. But Whitfield said, not only will children have a harder time making it to their lessons, but also, there are things in this park that could be dangerous.

"I couldn't take 12 kids there because they have a playground, the lake and they also have water moccasins. If I got four kids that are willing to learn and eight kids all over the place, something happens to them, then it's on me," he said.

"From a safety perspective, it's the best location that we have for them. To my knowledge we don't have any of those issues at that location or we've not had any complaints from anyone," said Winkler.

There is no city ordinance that bans anyone from playing golf at any park in Sherman, but Winkler says one may be necessary if it poses a safety risk.

"If we have to enact a city ordinance, I mean that's a possibility, but currently there isn't one. It's just we have always approached people to ask them to use another location not to create a safety issue," he said.

Whitfield said he will make a presentation to the city council in February about keeping First Tee at Martin Luther King park.
If it doesn't work out with the city, Northern Challenge Golf Club is willing to make arrangements with Whitfield.


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