Daniel Byrd dreams of becoming a professional golfer one day.
That's why he hits the links every Saturday, perfecting his game at Fort Lauderdale's Osswald Park.
Byrd, 14, is one of 20 local kids who receive free, weekly lessons through a junior program organized by the Broward Ebony Golf Association. The group of about 60 black golfers raises funds to provide golf lessons and college scholarships for young players.
President Herbert Pitters said the organization's goal is to train South Florida's next generation of black golfers.
“They look up to us for mentoring,” said Pitters, who helped start the organization in August 2005. “We teach them everything about the game of golf. The kids get into it and they love it.”
The group recently hosted its third annual golf tournament at Inverrary Country Club in Lauderhill to raise money for its junior program. Proceeds from the event totaled more than $15,000, Byrd said.
For the past two years, the golf association has partnered with the city of Fort Lauderdale to provide lessons at Osswald Park for kids ages 5 to 18.
Byrd is one of four kids who also compete with the adult golfers in tournaments throughout the state.
“It's all to better my golf game,” said Byrd, a straight-A student who will enter Pompano Beach High School as a freshman this fall.
“Everyone is really nice to play with. And it's cool of them to let me play for free on some really nice courses.” One course that Byrd will likely never forget: the Doral Golf Resort & Spa. That's when he worked as a standard bearer for Tiger Woods.
A standard bearer walks alongside a player during a tournament carrying signs displaying the player's score to the crowd. Byrd was paired up with Woods during the March WGA-CA Championship tournament where he and other players from the junior program were asked to work as standard bearers.
“He shook [Tiger's] hand and they walked down the fairway together,” said Byrd's father, Carlton. “It was a tremendous, once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Asked to describe watching his idol play, Byrd said: “It was an honor. It was really cool to be able to meet the best player in the world.”
Getting an early start playing golf teaches the kids important life skills, said Betsy Pearson, a Broward Ebony Golf Association member who also serves as the group’s recording secretary. Her 14-year-old grandson, Brandon Pearson, is also a member of the junior program.
“It teaches them self-respect, sportsmanship and patience,” she said. “You learn to respect another person's time and space. These are skills they can take to other aspects in life.”
Since her grandson started playing golf a year and a half ago, Pearson said she has noticed he's much more focused in school.
“He's always asking me, ‘Nana, when are we going to play?’ ” she said. “But he knows that if he screws up his grades, the clubs are going in the closet. He's learning that in order to get better he has to practice and he's willing to put in that time. I've never seen that in him before.”
Byrd said the game has taught him how to stay calm under pressure.
“Some days the game works out for you, some days it doesn't,” he said. “But you always have to keep your cool.”
The Broward Ebony Golf Association started in 2005 after Pitters and some other local players realized there were no organizations for black golfers in Fort Lauderdale. The association is part of the Sunshine State Amateur Golfers Association, a statewide network of black golf organizations that was formed in 1972.
“I started five years ago, but I wish I had started earlier,” said Bryant Wardlaw, the group's secretary and a founding member. “When I was growing up, I thought it was just a bunch of white guys playing, but now with Tiger Woods, a lot more people are getting into it. It gives the kids something positive to do. It's a great way to teach them discipline.”
To contact the Broward Ebony Golf Association, call the group’s president, Herbert Pitters, at 954-937-8431, or the group’s recording secretary, Betsy Pearson, at 754-422-7124. You can write to the group at Broward Ebony Golf Association, Inc., Post Office Box 249, Fort Lauderdale, Fl. 33302.