Youth golf

Zoeller celebrates First Tee's 15th anniversary with Creekside

2014-05-10T22:30:00Z 2014-05-11T09:25:05Z Zoeller celebrates First Tee's 15th anniversary with CreeksideJim Peters james.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | The game of golf comes naturally to Harley Dubsky.

Its interactive dynamic was something the Valparaiso state champion had to learn.

"You meet so many people, you have to be able to socialize," Dubsky said.

The First Tee program, which originated 15 years ago at the Creekside Golf Course and Training Center, helped her blossom into a person comfortable speaking in front of a group like she did during Saturday's Fuzzy Zoeller clinic and demonstration.

"It's such an important youth development program," Creekside teaching professional Nancy Bender said. "Harley could golf, but she wasn't a good speaker. First Tee helped her come out of her shell."

Last year, while golfing with Zoeller at Pebble Beach, Dubsky put those communication skills to use, asking the two-time major champion if he would come to Creekside.

"He told me to set up the time and the place and he'd be there," Dubsky said.

Dubsky thought Zoeller might have been just being nice, but months later, when she got back in touch with him, she found out he meant it. The charismatic Zoeller made the trek up I-65 from Floyds Knobs to take part in Lessons with a Legend, followed by a private mixer and lunch at Aberdeen.

"It's good to watch people like Harley," Zoeller said, laughing about how she out-hits him. "I told her I would do it and I'm a man of my word. A handshake is a contract. What a great facility this is for kids. Nancy's done a hell of a job up here. The smiles on the kids' faces, I wish everybody had the opportunity that these kids to have."

Over 60 children including Samantha Guernsey of Valpo participated in the event, which was punctuated by a putt and a picture with Zoeller. The St. Paul fourth-grader selected him as the subject of her class paper on a famous Hoosier. She also made a 'mini Fuzzy' out of a bottle and clay.

"Fuzzy knows our chapter very well," Bender said. "Three of our kids have golfed with him. He's so willing to give back. We're so happy to have him here. I'd like to think he considers this one of his homes."

Indiana is the life-time home of Zoeller, 62, who grew up playing at nearby Valley View Golf Club in Floyds Knobs. He went to New Albany High School because Providence, the Catholic school in Clarksville, didn't have a golf team.

"I love the people, I love the state, the area I'm in," he said. "I could've told you when I was 7 or 8 what I was going to do. I had the hand-eye coordination. I loved it. People during our era were more self-taught. Everything was done with feel. It wasn't so mechanical like it is now."

The event served as the 15th anniversary kickoff for Creekside, which was the first site in the world with First Tee. It will have a fourth young golfer play with Zoeller at Pebble Beach again in September.

"It's kept growing and growing," Bender said. "We'd like to make this an annual event. We were a small chapter and now we have 2,000 kids in northern Indiana. We're moving in the right direction."

Dubsky, who will play for Nevada-Las Vegas, capped the activities at the course by talking to the group and hitting some range balls.

"First Tee's given me a lot of opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise," she said. "Playing Pebble Beach was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but it's not all golf. It's creating leaders in the community as well as the world."

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