NEWBERRY — Many articles have been written over the last several years about the challenges facing the game of golf, primarily the decline in the number of golfers. It’s not just that senior golfers are getting older, but that younger folks are not picking up the game.
However, programs like the First Tee help introduce young people to golf and all of the fun and challenges it offers. More importantly it stresses such values as exercise, the camaraderie of fellow golfers, the physical and mental challenges, and most importantly honesty, integrity and fun.
Will Eckstein, member at the Country Club of Newberry, is 16 years old, and the youngest Club Champion ever of the club that was established in 1922.
Eckstein, originally from Guatemala, was adopted by Bob and Patty Eckstein at the age of 4, after enduring 18 months of extensive paper work. He currently attends Newberry Christian Academy.
He plays for the PAC Panthers, a private school team under his coach is Lee Winter. He is an A- student overall. He only had one B, and confessed that it was in Spanish of all things — his native language. Eckstein said he does not get many opportunities to speak Spanish.
Starting golf at the age of 6 with his father, Eckstein plays in 12 different matches with other private schools. Today, he is a scratch golfer with a zero handicap.
Eckstein said he plays almost every day in the summer and three to four days during the school year. He goes to the range four times a week. Other sports he is interested in are baseball, basketball or football.
Eckstein said he enjoys the Country Club of Newberry because everyone is helpful and friendly. Early on, many of the retired senior players, such as David Gillion and the late Don Cushway, took him under their wing. He said they would pick him up, golf with him, and bring him back home when his dad was working.
He cannot seem to stay away from the course, working 10-14 hours a week at CCN in the summer.
Reasons Eckstein said he enjoys golfing are the people he has the opportunity to meet. He loves the challenge of the courses he comes in contact with — you can’t conquer it, he said because each round is different.
Although he sometimes suffers from bad shots, he sees them as opportunities to improve. Eckstein said he tries to improve his strategic approach to each hole.
Longterm, Eckstein said he hopes to earn a golf scholarship to college and if all progresses well, to have a shot at the pro tour. He suggests every young person give it a try.
“Once you hit that one good shot its addicting. You will make good friends and its a game you can play forever,” Eckstein said. “Try it. You will like it.”
It’s no surprise then that when he received his trophy for for the 2014 Country Club of Newberry Championship he received a standing ovation.