Staff photo by Jenny Yarborough
Jake Hunt, founder and executive director of the Wilmington Junior Golf Academy, was just one of the many volunteers thanked Thursday, April 28 for their hard work this year at the Wrightsville Beach School Volunteer Luncheon. Hunt recently led golf lessons for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in a pilot program at Rachel Freeman Elementary and WBS.
Golf is a sport some consider only for the well-to-do. But not Jake Hunt.
Hunt, a 27-year golf pro, founded Wilmington Junior Golf Academy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in September 2008. Last week he joined other Wrightsville Beach School volunteers at a special luncheon.
What began in afterschool programs such as Community Boys and Girls Club, Brigade Boys and Girls Club and Girls, Inc., expanded earlier this year into the New Hanover County public school system with a pilot six-week program at Rachel Freeman Elementary and WBS.
Almost doubling the number of children who Hunt coached to about 400 children a week, he said, he and his assistants hope to inspire even more developing minds as the program continues to thrive.
No matter what demanding career Hunt has held in the past, he said he’s always found the time to work with children. From coaching kids’ swimming or baseball—the sport he played at the University of Kentucky 40 years ago—and now to devoting every spare minute he has to teaching kids to drive and putt, his lessons have always been a lot more than just sport.
Though, Hunt said, "They get a real kick out of that," speaking of the students’ time with club in hand, golf is Hunt’s vehicle for teaching life lessons or in his words, "to help them understand there’s a better way."
Everyday, Hunt instructs one third-grade, fourth-grade and fifth-grade class during its regularly scheduled P.E. class so that through the program each student will receive six totally free golf lessons, making the club-and-ball sport fun for all—khakis and polo shirts optional and in most cases, even unnecessary.
For Hunt, he said, "It’s always been no matter how rich, how poor, no child will ever pay a dime."
That’s because lessons of honesty and integrity are at the root of and the foundation for the academy.
"What’s more important than golf," Hunt added, "is being a better person."
With no need for a putting green, the WBS school yard will do just fine for the growing minds of junior golfers.
Hunt said, "It makes a difference to them."
And making a difference makes a difference to him.