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My IRGF Story

Golf is a game that can fall through the cracks when it comes to conversation about sports. And it’s true, you don’t have to be the most athletic person to be a good golfer. However, not many can have the maturity and mental toughness to play the game. That’s where the Indian River Golf Foundation helped me the most.

The first time I picked up a club I was about 7 or 8 years old. As a natural baseball player growing up, I was able to make contact and hit the ball in a forward direction but not much more that that. I expected instant results and thought, “this should be easy”. But of course I was completely mistaken. I had no clue what I was doing. I went to golf camp, got lessons and, after a year or two, improved enough to play in my first ever junior golf event. My lack of maturity and actual knowledge of the game caused me to quit golf shortly after finishing the 2nd round of my first tournament. About a year went by and I had decided to give it another shot. I went out to play with my dad and shot a 79 and instantly became hooked again. I began playing in more junior events but continued to struggle with my mental game. I would throw clubs and get so mad at myself that I would be ready to walk right off the course.

Luckily for me, I met Roger Van Dyke and he started the Indian River Golf Foundation. I could finally play tournaments locally and have someone to mentor me through the game. With IRGF’s focus on rules, etiquette and self-improvement, my game began to grow dramatically. I learned that every golfer makes mistakes and it’s okay to hit bad shots as long as you have the confidence to pick yourself back up from it. Mr. Van Dyke made sure to always implement the importance of short game and course management which are two of the most essential elements of the game. And most importantly, I learned how to act on a golf course and around adults, and how to carry myself in a professional environment. Not all of these lessons came to me instantaneously because I was very stubborn. But after my time with the Indian River Golf Foundation I was able to become focused enough to earn a golf scholarship to Thomas University. On top of that the IRGF also provided me with a scholarship to help pay for books and tuition.

The values learned and friendships made through the Indian River Golf Foundation have given me a game that I can play for the rest of my life. Even though college golf didn’t work out for me the way I wished it would have, I still have the drive to one day return to the game and give back to it what it has given me. It’s my dream to be able to play and teach golf. And I thank the IRGF for providing the tools and making me realize that it is possible to do whatever you want as long as you work hard at it.

By A. J. Finley (2016)