• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Moss Hill Golf Course working to grow youth golf

Growing the game of golf, especially with young players, while also giving all golfers a great experience when they play, are just two of the goals of the management and employees who work at Moss Hill Golf Course. Established in 1967, Moss Hill Golf Course (formerly Woodford Hills Country Club) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year under the new ownership of Hargus and Sandra Sexton, and managing partner Tom Bozarth. “It just a great honor to be associated with the business that’s been here for 50 years,” said Bozarth. “There’s not many that you can say that have been here for 50 years. “(Moss Hill) has been an important part of Woodford County. A lot of kids (and) people grew up here and played here. We have a pool, a golf course and a restaurant. What it’s meant to Woodford County has been great.” According to Bozarth, a lot of improvements have been made to the golf course, the clubhouse and the new restaurant, Watkin’s Tavern, which is under the direction of executive chef Jerry Broderick, who came to Moss Hill after eight years at the Beaumont Inn. Moss Hill is open to members, and to the public, as it is a semi-private golf course. “The goal is to just make Moss Hill work,” said Worth Blackwelder, director of golf who came on board about a year ago when Bozarth asked him to help out at the course. “Make sure the members have fun. Treat our guests who come in with respect and make sure they have a good time. … Golf is a hospitality business. (If you) make sure the people have a good time, (they) will come back.” A big emphasis at Moss Hill is trying to grow the youth program. For a small community golf course, Moss Hill has had a number of players, such as Joe Barr, Cale Barr, Jane Watts and Harry Watts, who moved on from the youth game to play in high school and college. Another player, Mallory Blackwelder, Worth’s daughter, even played on the professional LPGA tour. Currently, Moss Hill has two young up-and-coming players learning and playing at Moss Hill in Abigail Caine and Bradford Lacefield. Both of them have qualified for the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship Aug. 4 to 6, 2017, at Pinehurst, N.C. The two were also part of the PGA Junior League at Moss Hill, which had its first year in 2016 under former coach Joe Barr. The team went 5-1 on the season and took home first place. The key to success for young golfers is to get them started early. “Before the age of 12,” according to Myra Blackwelder, who coaches both Abigail and Bradford. “Golf is a good game because it teaches kids to think critically and conceptually and be self-reliant and respectful,” she added. “They’re around civic leaders that play golf as well. It’s a really good environment for kids.” Learning to play early, and if they become good players, golf can potentially help young players earn a scholarship to college. “It’s a long path, and that’s why kids should get into golf at a young age,” said Myra. “They need to hone their sills so that, when they enter recruiting age, they might get the chance to go to college and play golf and get a good education.” According to Myra, some of the better players are starting to draw attention by their 14th birthday and the best are committing to colleges by age 15. To help young golfers have access to learn the game, Myra started the America’s Golf Team Foundation, which got its approval in 2014 and began operations in 2015. Currently, the foundation helps Moss Hill, but the hope is that in the future it can help other golf courses and programs as well. The foundation, which is a 501(c)3 charity, has as its mission to try and do four things: 1) Bring new participants to the game who have never been around golf before; 2) Try to retain current golfers; 3) Try to turn junior golfers into college athletes; and 4) Try to create a path to help young professionals who want to play on the tour have the resources to do so. Basically, the foundation is a grant-making organization, which tries to raise money through fundraisers. The proceeds then go into the foundation and the foundation awards a grant to Moss Hill, which takes the funds and uses them for their junior programs. One such fundraiser the foundation holds is the Moss Hill Master’s Weekend party, which will be held for the second consecutive year on Saturday and Sunday, April 8 and 9, which benefits the Moss Hill junior program. Last year the foundation sponsored the PGA Junior League team that won the championship title. The fundraiser will have a number of activities and events. According to Myra, Tom also wanted to expand the weekend this year and is offering a complimentary family scramble – a junior-adult scramble (two people) – on Saturday that is open to the public to out come and play. Then on Sunday, they will hold the fundraiser where people can watch the masters’ golf tournament until “a champion is crowned.” There will be food, games, raffles and prizes during the day, with the proceeds going to the junior golf programs at Moss Hill. For information about the America’s Golf Foundation, go to: www.americasgolfteam.com. For information about Moss Hill’s Master’s Weekend party, go to: www.americasgolfteam.com/upcoming-events or call 873-8122. Moss Hill Golf Course is located at 3495 McCowans Ferry Road in Versailles.

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