Gray Golf Classic inspires young men to learn the game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

By Laurie D. Willis
Livingstone College News Service
SALISBURY — Livingstone College Golf Coach Andre Springs loves teaching the game of golf.
And for the second consecutive year, Springs taught the fundamentals of putting and swinging to boys as part of a clinic held during the Gray Golf Classic, an annual tournament that supports 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte, Inc.
Held July 16 at The Golf Club at Ballantyne and sponsored by businessman Herb Gray, the tournament featured 200 golfers, including Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr., and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. Jenkins and Dalton were paired together during the tournament.
The Gray Golf Classic also included a Ladies Brunch for which Sonja Gantt, daughter of former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, served as keynote speaker. Dr. Faleese Moore-Jenkins, Jenkins’ wife, and Sharon M. Thompson, associate vice president for operations/human resources and risk management, attended the brunch.
By all accounts, the tournament was a success.
“We had a morning and afternoon session for the golfers,” said Gray, CEO of Enhancement Life Services, a behavior health care company based in Charlotte. “We also had a Ladies Brunch with about 130 women. I think the tournament was very successful based on all of the emails, phone calls and feedback I’ve gotten. It was just incredible.”
Proceeds from the golf tournament support the mentoring efforts of 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte, Inc., Gray said. The men involved in 100 Black Men spend time with area youth, serving as role models for them.
Last year Gray asked Springs to conduct a golf clinic for the boys who are mentored by the men.
“This is the second year we’ve done that piece, and Coach Springs has been instrumental in being a role model for the kids but at the same time he goes around and not only works with the kids but he also works with the adults out there on the golf course to help move the pace along,” Gray said. “He also helps out whenever someone isn’t sure about the rules of the game. Coach Springs was a tremendous asset to our tournament.”
Springs said he was glad to be part of the tournament again this year because it’s for a worthwhile cause and he loves helping young people learn the game about which he is passionate.
“Golf is a sport that you can play all of your life, unlike basketball and football which you physically have to stop playing at a certain point,” Springs said. “Also, golf gives you a good opportunity to network, which is why it’s so important for kids to be exposed to the game.
“I’ve always wanted to expose my own kids to the game, and recently my oldest son, who’s 27, told me he has begun to get serious about golf,” Springs continued. “I’ve given him and my grandson lessons. It’s really important that kids get exposed to different sports. Traditionally, African-American kids play mostly basketball and football, but the game of golf is unique because of the intellect and patience required to master it. I welcome any opportunity to give back and work with kids, and the Gray Golf Classic is the perfect place to do that.”
Springs said he worked with about 10 young boys during the tournament, all novices to the game. He instructed them on how to putt and swing, as well as golf etiquette. He also shared with them his evolution with golf, which began when he was 6 years old and picked up balls at the Charlotte golf range where his uncle worked as a greens keeper.
Springs began playing golf in junior high school but didn’t make his school’s team until his freshman year, having tried out in the seventh and eighth grades but getting cut both years. He told the boys he didn’t let that deter him but instead used it as a motivating factor to become a great golfer. He went on to star in golf at Fayetteville State University, where he earned All-CIAA honor four consecutive years.
Springs, of Charlotte, personally knows Dr. Charles L. “Charlie” Sifford, the first black man to play on the Professional Golf Tour. In fact, Springs was instrumental in getting Sifford to participate in the Sixth Annual Faith-Based Celebrity Golf Tournament, held at Livingstone College last month.
“I’m proud of what Herb Gray has been able to accomplish with his tournament, and I’m also glad Dr. Jenkins was able to participate in it,” Springs said. “I think it’s a wonderful service to the community, and I hope my involvement with it will continue.”