A unique opportunity on Aquidneck Island, FabGolf is encouraging young athletes to take a swing at a sport they may not ordinarily be exposed to. Director Orlando Peace designed the program, which is sponsored by FabNewport, to bring the sport of golf to children of color in the area.
FabNewport is a community agency with a mission of empowering students by “learning, making, and doing.” In addition to the golf program, they run after-school and summer activities, including classes in coding and Jóvenes Creativos – a bilingual maker program giving Spanish-speaking students exposure to careers in design, business, STEAM, and teaching.
“I didn’t see any kids who looked like me playing golf,” says Peace. “Golf is a pretty lucrative business; you hardly see any kids of color actually playing.” He wanted to change that.
Peace, who serves on several community service boards in the Newport area, has worked with youth throughout the region for over 25 years. He proposed the idea to his golfing partner and executive director of FabNewport, Steve Heath. “He and I made an old-school deal underneath a basketball net in a gym,” explains Peace. “I told him about my idea and he said ‘let’s start it.’ We started with about 15-20 kids and now we have close to 80.”
FabGolf calls the Green Valley Country Club in Portsmouth home. The course offers kids the full experience, with 18 holes, a driving range, and putting greens. The club also hosts a Jr. PGA tournament, where the young golfers compete against other area clubs. Members and staff at Green Valley have received the program warmly. “We needed access to a golf course,” explains Peace. “Those guys have been the best. Ron Raposa, the owner, and staff love seeing the kids coming out to the golf course. It’s been a blessing,” says Peace.
“We get a lot of support from different community agencies, including Salve Regina Community Service Program, led by Kelly Powers, who has four boys in the Jr. PGA program. Our local Kiwanis Club has stepped up, Newport Prevention Coalition, and more,” notes Peace. “Most of the kids don’t have clubs; they don’t have golf shoes. We’ve had a lot of people donate these things.”
The program has grown in popularity, and now includes a year-round component. “We joined up with Newport Indoor Golf. We use simulators where we work on putting and chipping. We also introduce kids to jobs in the golf business, which is an 84 billion dollar a year industry. The kids work with 3D printing, coding, and designing.”
Peace hopes to include more youth in the program, too. “We’re having conversations with the YMCA and Newport Parks and Recreation and will hopefully spread it out across the whole island.” He expects numbers to grow to about 150 kids from ages five through high school. And it’s not just golf. “They get a lot of life skills and a career path,” adds Peace. “We’re also looking to build a training facility but we need land – we got a lot of people out there looking.”
To learn more about FabGolf, visit FabNewport.org
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