In January, the Learning Center at International Links-Melreese opened amid all sorts of hoopla — politicians, pro golfers, celebrities and many other well-known individuals attending.
That was all fun and good. However, since then, hard work has been the order of the day as the unique combination of golf and homework nears its summer opening.
“We’re looking forward to a huge summer,” said Charlie DeLucca Jr., one of the guiding hands behind the center.
The center is a unique blend of tutoring kids mixed in with golf and other sports, all taking place in a state-of-the-art facility that includes $45,000 worth of video technology.
Everything is taught from school subjects to how to hit a golf ball properly, along with other sports.
“It includes everything from healthy exercise to healthy eating habits,” DeLucca Jr. said.
“We’ll be teaching kids things they want to do, not what we want them to do.”
First Tee is a well-recognized national program associated with golf, but the First Tee of Miami has also made it a school experience, helping kids absorb math, science and other subjects along with trying to perfect a strong golf swing.
“Our goal is to make sure they graduate high school and go to college,” DeLucca Jr. said.
One of the prize possessions in the Learning Center is a golf bag donated by Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 1 in the world at the time. The bag was auctioned off for $8,500, and the person who bought it promptly gave it back to the Learning Center in gratitude for what the people there are trying to do for children.
Part of the program has the First Tee going out to schools and teaching what they call “Golf in the Gymnasium.” Might involve a few broken windows, but it gets kids involved.
The tutoring side of the program is run by an organization called Grasp. It was just by happenstance, but the name Grasp works perfectly — learn how to grasp your homework, learn how to grasp a golf club, and learn how to grasp that both of them can be fun.
Valerie Berman, CEO of Grasp, along with DeLucca Jr., sees the program expanding nationwide.
There has already been inquiries from other First Tees.
“This program will become a model,” DeLucca Jr. said.
“The best part,” Berman said, “is pretty simple. It’s for the kids.”
For more information on the Learning Center program, which begins in early June, go to International Links, 1802 NW 37th Ave., Miami, to pick up a registration form, or call 305-633-4583.
FIU OFF TO REGIONAL
FIU’s women’s golf team left Tuesday for the NCAA Division I East Regional at Auburn University Club in Auburn, Ala. The team will practice Wednesday and then play rounds Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
FIU is the Sun Belt champion and seeded 18th in the tournament. The top eight teams of the 24 competing advance to the national championship.
Joe Alfieri of Lutes, near Tampa, won the Florida State Golf Association men’s mid-amateur tournament Sunday.
Top individuals from South Florida included John Weggman, third; Peter Weggman, seventh; David Obst, 17th; David Tassell, 18th; and Bobby Briskie, 21st .