KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Central Middle/High School head golf coach Joe Kirk has been involved in the game of golf for 35 years. In his day, he never saw the public schools in Kansas City, Missouri fielding a golf team. He was determined to change that.

“It’s something that’s been happening for about 10 years,” he said. “Where we could go to high schools and introduce golf to kids. “There were times when I didn’t think we would, but by the grace of God, we did.”

With a few donations, help from the First Tee and more, Central Middle School got the green light: the first to start in Kansas City Public Schools.

“Golf teaches you things that kids need now,” he said. “Kids need to know integrity, honesty, responsibility and golf teaches that. So our goal is to try to make a productive citizen.

Kirk said it was a humble start.

“They couldn’t tell you a hockey stick from a golf club,” he said.

“At school one day they were saying something over the intercom, I joined after a week of thinking,” said golfer Melvin Griffin.

“I like to play golf mainly because it gets me out of the house,” said golfer Maliya Campbell.

That’s why the program won’t be competitive this year, as they learn more about the game. But, as Kirk and his team continue to teach the game they love, they hope students will learn at home. love too.

“I can see golf helping me in other sports and the strength and patience I need in a game,” Griffin said.

“As we put these kinds of programs in place, bringing them to the city, to the kids, we expect and know that will help grow the game,” Kirk said.

Central is just the first. The hope is that all public schools in the city can participate.