Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
WEST JORDAN — Kalin Peterson was enjoying a morning round of golf with his stepfather when they ran into delays.
He asked a course employee why the golfers in front of them were so slow.
“I asked someone, and they said they had a girls golf tournament going on,” said Peterson. “They told me a lot of teams had like one or two sets of clubs per team, and there were four or five girls on each team. So they had to share the clubs, which took forever.”
A lot of people would simply grumble about the misfortune of ending up behind inexperienced, ill-equipped golfers. But this 17-year-old West Jordan senior responded much differently.
“It gave me an idea,” said Peterson, who also plays basketball and baseball.
That idea was to ask more experienced golfers to donate clubs to high school girls. He discussed the subject with his mom, Kim Wilson, who helped him come up with a plan.
Their goal was ambitious — collect 48 sets of clubs to equip six high school teams. They started out by writing a letter explaining who he was and why he wanted to help other teens get involved with the game of golf. They went to a Susan G. Komen golf fundraiser where 100 women were swinging clubs to raise money for cancer research.
“I just went there to hand out papers,” he said.
And then his mom adds, “And they asked him to speak.”
He was not prepared to address the crowd, but he did.
“And they all loved it,” said Peterson with a smile. “Even right on the spot, some of them gave me things.” He collected names, phone numbers, addresses and promises of equipment.
“We drove around for weeks picking stuff up after that,” said Wilson. “It kind of went crazy.”
They also made donation bins with his contact information on them, and left them at two Salt Lake County golf courses — Mountain View and Riverbend.
Very quickly their home became a golf warehouse.
“We didn’t have a living room for nine months,” laughed Wilson, pointing to the spot near the kitchen where the family erected their Christmas tree.
As the end of the boys high school golf season neared in October, Peterson had only reached about half of his goal.
“I didn’t think we’d get them all,” he said. They needed to have the clubs ready to go by March when the state’s high school girls golf season began. So he continued to ask for donations while he and his family began cleaning and organizing what they’d already been given. The donations included bags, clubs, tees, balls, shoes, and towels.
“Separating them was a mistake,” said Wilson, with more laughter, as they explained the system they set up to clean and organize all of the donations. In the end, not only did they end up reaching their goal of 48 sets, they had so many spare clubs, shoes and balls, they actually invited teams to come to their West Jordan home to take whatever they needed for their boys teams. One Taylorsville woman gave 800 balls, neatly organized in egg cartons. Some of the sets came from active golfers, while calls came from widows who offered the clubs of their late husbands.
They contacted several schools, and five eagerly accepted the clubs — West Jordan, Kearns, Granger, Hunter and Cyprus. Two other schools — Taylorsville and South Summit — called Peterson, and he provided each of them with eight sets.
“He didn’t just give them clubs; he gave them everything — balls, shoes, hats, towels, gloves,” said Cyprus athletic director Erin Tanner. “I could not believe the quality and quantity of what he donated.”
Tanner said the Pirates, like many schools, have had trouble retaining female golfers because they do not own their own clubs and sharing is difficult.
“What’s important to us is the fact that he gave five girls the chance to compete this year, who otherwise would not have participated,” said Tanner.
One of those is Alma Bramudez, a junior who doesn’t play any other sport. She said she wouldn’t have answered the call to come out for golf if the school hadn’t offered her a set of clubs.
“I thought it would be something new, something fun to try,” she said, as she and her teammates prepared to compete in a region tournament last week. Added her friend Yadira Martinez, “I like golf. It’s not easy. Everyone thinks it’s boring, but it’s actually really hard to get used to.” She also said she’d have been intimidated to start a new sport without the proper equipment. Now both girls say they plan to continue golfing.
The donations didn’t just help the girls who received new clubs. It helped those girls who desperately wanted teammates and success for themselves.
“My freshman year, I was by myself a lot, and that was really sad,” said Marin Easton, a junior. “I couldn’t find a ride home, we’d forfeit every time; it’s just so much more fun this year.”
The girls were shocked when the coach showed them the clubs that were donated, but maybe more shocked when they were told the equipment was theirs to keep.
“It was a big surprise," said Tiara Price, who’d borrowed her uncle’s clubs last year. “It was really nice. It makes a big difference because now we have more girls. It makes a big difference if you can’t afford to buy clubs, that someone would donate them to you.”
All of the girls said it’s made a huge difference in how well they play.
“We can play more because we don’t have to share one set now,” Price said. “It was difficult last year, and it really didn’t work well. A lot of girls started, but just dropped because they didn’t have clubs.”
Tanner said she’s grateful to Peterson for his efforts on behalf of the girls, but also to all of those who donated equipment.
“It is really amazing,” said Tanner. “We’re just so grateful to everyone who donated. I don’t play golf, but I see the positive impact it has made to even just a few kids at our school.”
Studies have consistently shown that participating in activities and athletics helps students achieve higher grades, as well.
Peterson is an honor student (3.97 GPA) who will attend — and golf at — Westminster College next year. He said sports are much more than a distraction for high school students.
“I don’t know how my life would be without sports,” he said. “All of my friends are from baseball, basketball and golf. It honestly kept me getting good grades because I wanted to play college sports,” he said. “I knew I needed to get good grades to do that. It kept me out of trouble for sure, not only with my parents, but I didn’t want to let my team down or my school down. I wanted to make everyone proud.”
Peterson puts his hands in his pockets and smiles when asked how he feels about giving so many girls the chance to experience a little of what he has enjoyed as a high school athlete.
“It was sweet,” he said. “People don’t really realize how having your own set of clubs in golfing, how it could start them golfing for the rest of their lives. That’s kind of what I wanted to get started, was for them to pass it down to a new generation of golfers, and just get more girls golfing.”
Peterson has seen the joy golf brings to his mom, who started golfing when she remarried 11 years ago. He knows the joy, friendship and sense of accomplishment it’s brought to his life.
“It’s taught me honesty, integrity because that’s what golf is all about,” he said, as his mom was assisting some young golfers in need of putters. “It’s taught me how to be a gentleman.”
It’s also taught him that sharing one’s good fortune is a very satisfying endeavor. In addition to trying to figure out ways to keep this program going while he’s in college, he hopes to add to what the girls get with their clubs.
“We only went to two courses,” he said. “I don’t know if we could get that many sets again, but maybe if we go all over the state.”
Peterson, who is now working at a golf course, also wants to ask golf courses if they’ll donate gift cards or time to the girls so they can practice. One of the athletic directors told Peterson that some girls skip lunch so they can buy a bucket of balls in an effort to improve. He said that improving their skills will also improve the level of enjoyment and satisfaction they derive from the game.
“I would like to keep it going,” he said. “I would like to get more and more girls involved. Girls golf here is kind of a new thing. I think girls golf is going to be huge, and I’d like to see them golfing for the rest of their lives.”
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