Fort Mill Academy Students Learn From ProsSeptember 15, 2010
Fifteen-year-old Randy Tran never thought he’d play golf.
“I wasn’t interested,” Tran, a ninth grader at Fort Mill Academy, said.
Tran is learning how to tee up because golf is part of his physical education class at the Academy. With several classes under his belt, Tran has a new opinion about golf.
“It’s fun, kind of, and hot,” he said. “I get to learn how to play. I’m starting to like it.”
It doesn’t hurt that the class, which meets twice weekly for three weeks, is led by Brent Reneau and his father, Tom Reneau. Both are members of the Professional Golfers Association. The class is fully underwritten by locally based Leroy Springs & Co.
“We’re very fortunate that Leroy Springs offered this to us,” Michael Allen, the Academy’s PE teacher, said. “The kids are happy. They’re having fun.”
The initial class will meet for one more week. A second class is slated for late October or early November, but there’s more at stake than learning how to golf.
“We want to expose our children to a sport they typically wouldn’t be exposed to,” Principal Marty Conner said. “That’s important because the game of golf is more a game to challenge yourself and to perfect the skills within yourself. That’s a direct correlation to the type of students we have here and them challenging themselves to make changes that they need to make to better themselves.”
Three sessions brought change, he said.
“I can see them blossoming and working on their deficiencies in golf, which can be transferred into them working on their deficiencies in their class work and behavior,” Conner said. The students take to the greens nestled under towering trees near the academy for nearly two hours on Mondays and Wednesdays. Nothing about the sport is easy.
“Golf’s a good exercise activity,” Brent Reneau, 37, a Fort Mill resident, said. “In golf, you use all your muscles.”
Golfers also use much more.
“It’s definitely a sport that takes a lot of discipline,” said Reneau, who still plays in the Carolinas PGA and is set for a Sept. 12 championship in North Carolina. “When you’re practicing, it takes total dedication to focus on one piece at a time.”
Golfing, he said, requires that and more.
“It’s a sport that requires etiquette,” Reneau said. “You have to know where to stand. You have to know how to be quiet when someone’s playing. You have to know the rules. It’s not like other sports where you have referees. You’re governing yourself. It’s a game of honor.”
Tommy Lee Walker, 16, used to putt around years ago.
“Just hitting golf balls in the backyard,” Walker said. “We used to have a set of clubs. We had a whole bunch of balls, and I’d go out and hit them.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” Walker added. “I’d just go out and swing the golf club and hope I hit it (the ball).”
That was about five years ago. Now, Walker benefits from the sage advice of Tom and Brent Reneau.
“It’s pretty cool because he’s teaching us,” Walker said of Brent Reneau.
Two weeks ago, Walker and some of his classmates had a competition to see who could hit the ball closest to the hole in the green.
“I concentrated and listened,” he said. “I did everything that he’s (Tom Reneau) told me so far. If you don’t follow what the instructor tells you to do, then you won’t know how to do it.”
When the competition was over, Walker’s ball was about an arm’s length from the hole, earning him the win.
“I haven’t won nothing in a long time,” he said.
Unlike Walker, Ky’Aysia Watts, 12, is new to golf.
“I thought it was going to be easy,” the seventh grader said. “It’s hard work. You have to swing the club a certain way.”
Sometimes, Watts strains her back muscles from trying to hit the ball too hard.
“The first day, the second time I hit the ball,” she said. “Today (last Wednesday), it wasn’t working.”
Thanks to coaching from Tom Reneau, Walker knows what went wrong.
“I was not focused,” she said. “If you’re not focused, you’re trying to hit as many balls as you can rather than getting your swing right.”
So Walker took time to get her swing right.
“He (Tom Reneau) kept giving us tips on how to swing the club so we could make contact with the ball,” she said. “It’s a certain way you have to hold your hands. I can’t usually get it, so I usually choke up and try to swing. Usually, I go down, the dirt chips and the grass comes up.”
Patience, she said, is part of the golfing game, too. “I’m getting better,” she said. “I just need to work on hitting the ball.”
Somewhere under a towering tree, a principal took in the scene.
“Golf is a structural game where you follow a set of mechanics,” Conner said. “It’s a series of steps that build on each other. In golf, if you miss a certain mechanic then your swing is off.”
The same is true in life, he said.
“Golf can change a student’s behavior and ultimately help put them back on the right track,” Conner said.
The same sport can give Fort Mill Academy students long-lasting memories, PE teacher Michael Allen said.
“I can see the excitement, the focus that they have on getting better,” he said. “It’s all about the kids, their happiness and giving them something they can hold onto and carry with them.”
Written by Toya Graham for the Fort Mill Times and posted on September 10th, 2010.