Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Growing the Game of Golf one Club at a Time

During my most recent golf getaway to Maui, I played my favorite sport every day at my favorite golf resort on the island – Ka’anapali Resort.

People often ask me, why Ka’anapali when there are so many great courses on the island?  And my answer is always the same, “I’ve been playing golf on Maui since 2007. Except for two smaller venues on the east coast, I’ve played every course on the island many times including two on Lana’i.  I’ve even played courses that don’t exist anymore.

And although most these courses are worth the price of admission, they lack something that greets me every time I get out of my car at the bag drop at Ka’anapali – the Aloha Spirit that lives within the people who work there.”

Let me introduce you to just one of them – PGA Director of Instruction, David Havens.

When we first arrived at Ka’anapali last month, our games were pretty rusty; we’d played on a few rounds of golf in the last 6 months and were feeling less than confident on the first tee.

So when David asked if we’d like to play with him and one of his students who was getting a playing lesson that day, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.

But feeling naked on the first tee didn’t stop me from jumping at the chance to watch the 2013 Aloha Section PGA the Teacher of the Year in action.

It was one of the most enjoyable golf rounds I’ve ever played.   David is all about staying positive and having fun on the golf course, starting with the Rock and Roll tunes he has blasting from his iPhone as we teed it off.

His playlist was perfect for swinging and singing and I couldn’t have been more delighted when I stood up on the 13th tee and hit my drive to the sounds of my favorite song of all time - Stairway to Heaven. That was my “come back tomorrow shot”!

After the round was over, we joined David in Roy’s Restaurant in the club house for lunch and talked about his passion for golf and for giving back.   A lot of golfers say they are committed to growing the game, but David is actually doing something about it through Spare for Change -- a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization he launched in March 2011.

Spare for Change recycles 2nd hand golf clubs donated by generous players from all over the world, and puts them in the hands of kids and adults who want to learn, practice and play golf, but can't afford the expensive equipment that typically comes with the game.



The charity also provides instruction, club repair or anything else needed to grow players’ chances of making golf a lifelong passion.

To date, over 8,000 golf clubs have been given to golfer wannabees -- toddlers to grandparents in every state in the US and many developing countries.  Kids start by getting one free club from Spare for Change; adults get 3.  And if David sees them actually use and practice with their clubs, he’ll keep giving them more clubs until they have a full set.

Spare for Change hosts two tournaments every year to help raise money and if you ever have the chance to play in one of them, jump at it!

The Throwback is an invitation-only event where up to 20 players compete with vintage equipment -- persimmon woods, blade golf clubs, “new” balls from 1979-84 and metal spikes.  How cool is that!

Through hole sponsors, Spare for Change raised $2,900 this past April which allowed David to donate money to the Aloha Section for their Junior Fundraiser and support a member of Ka’anapali’s Guest Services team chase his dream to the PGA.

On June 14th David is looking to raise $10-12K by hosting 156 golfers at $100/player at the Ka’anapali Royale Course for the annual Spare for Change Fundraiser.  Mulligans, gimmee strings, throw & kick packs are all for sale.

David will also tee it up to try and drive the green for every team at one of my favorite holes on the Royal - the bunker-infested 7th.



He’ll also be adding a second flag to all of the greens so players will have two putting options.  I wish I could play in that event; I’d buy 100 feet of string so I would never have to putt on those immaculate, but very difficult grainy Bermuda greens. J

Today Spare for Change is about helping new players learn, practice, play and love the game by giving them free equipment, lessons and support, but David’s vision goes much further.

Last year, he launched the Spare for Change Scholarship Program, helping local golfers represent Maui on their college golf teams on the mainland.



Someday he hopes to expand Spare for Change to include soccer, basketball, baseball, etc.  He dreams of having warehouses all over the US where kids from Boys and Girls clubs can afford to shop for sports equipment.

David Havens attributes all he has in life to the game of golf and Spare for Change is his way of giving back to a sport that has given him so much.

“My golfing life started in April 1984 when Petey Johnson, the pro and superintendent at Wytheville Golf Club, gave me a 1-iron from the lost-and-found to use as he taught me the game of golf,” said David. “Through golf I earned a scholarship to Virginia Tech, won the qualifying school to play on the South African Tour, traveled to 50+ countries, got married to my lovely wife Susan who just delivered our first beautiful daughter, live and teach golf on Maui.  I followed my dreams and had a successful golf career, so now I’m all about teaching the game and giving back through Spare for Change.”

So often we hear that golf is a sport for the rich and elite.  It’s refreshing to see someone start to break down that stereotype and grow the game by giving golf clubs to people who never dreamed of having an opportunity to learn and play the greatest game on earth.

But David is also the first to say that he’s had a lot of support along the way, “I couldn’t possibly realize my vision for Spare of Change without the help of a lot a people who share my commitment and dedication to the cause.  Ka’anapali Resort, and in particular, PGA General Manager Ed Kageyama, is extremely supportive, hosting and sponsoring Spare for Change events and allowing me to share what Spare for Change is all about with members and guests, introduce new ideas into our teaching programs to help grow people’s love for the game and donate clubs to deserving students at the academy.”

If you have clubs collecting dust in your basement or garage, how about giving them a second life with Spare for Change? I guarantee that those clubs will receive a lot more tender loving care from their new owners than you’re giving to them right now.

For more information on how you can help grow the game of golf, one club at a time, visit http://www.spareforchange.org.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am envious of your lifestyle. Golf in Hawaii is something I look forward to one day.

Jeremy
http://www.handicapforgolf.com