Swings & Life Lessons: Kids Tee Off at LB3 Foundation Golf Camp

By Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report | June 4, 2024

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The children made for enthusiastic participants as well as impressed spectators during the first session of the LB3 Foundation’s annual summer camp on Monday, June 3, at The Savannah Golf Club.

The first session of the LB3 Foundation's annual summer golf camp for children on Monday, June 3, 2024, at The Savannah Golf Club. Pictured in the back row, left to right, are First Tee -- Savannah CEO John Parker, LB3 Foundation president Lawrence Bryan III (spinning a basketball) and volunteer Tony Center. (Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report)


Volunteer instructor Victoria Elise Grant, not much older than the campers as she turns 12 on Friday, hit a solid tee shot which elicited comments of “How did you do that?” and “that ball gone.”

John Parker, the CEO of First Tee – Savannah, walked his 6-foot-11 frame up to the tee and drilled a shot which made the golf ball a white dot against the blue sky.

“Oh my lordy Lord,” one girl gushed. “Where did it go?”

“He’s got the real cheat code,” a boy commented.

Parker later shrugged off the drive as good for distance but not accuracy, as the ball landed in a neighboring fairway. He wasn’t there to show off his golf game, anyway.  

For the second consecutive year, Parker is lending his skills as an instructor of golf and life lessons to the LB3 Foundation’s now ninth annual series of clinics aimed for underserved youth ages 9-12 in the Savannah community.

“You really can’t teach a kid to play golf in a day,” foundation president Lawrence Bryan III said of the two-hour sessions, which will be offered to campers from different community centers on Mondays through July 8. “We try to teach them what we can and teach them life skills and build character and build confidence.”

LB3 Foundation president Lawrence Bryan III high-fives people at the start of the first session of the annual summer golf camp on Monday, June 3, 2024, at The Savannah Golf Club. (Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report)


Bryan, a former bartender at The Savannah Golf Club, created the camps through relationships built with club members, an army of volunteers, donors and staff such as head golf professional Alex Messinger.

Parker made his debut last summer when he was program director at First Tee – Savannah, a chapter of the national youth development organization for ages 4-18 which integrates character education through golf.

First Tee offers afterschool programs and summer programs which impact about 15,600 children in Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Liberty counties, said Parker, now the chapter’s CEO.

Savannah CEO John Parker, right, helps a camper line up his tee shot during a drill on Monday, June 3, 2024, at The Savannah Golf Club. {Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report)


“He’s brought a brand new flavor to this golf camp and it’s taken off like a rocket,” Bryan said.

Bryan noted that Parker is a retired school teacher and observed “the way they gravitate toward him and how he uses his teaching skills to not only teach about golf but about respecting one another and having fun. He’s a great teacher.”

Before the campers ages 9-10 took turns swinging at small tennis balls and then actual golf balls, Parker set the ground rules about a safe and respectful environment for the morning session.

He had each of the eight campers from John S. Delaware Center take one of what looked like old range balls from a plastic bag. He had them look over their choice, markings, scuffs and all.

“All these golf balls relate to us in some way,” Parker said, and they guessed how that could be.

The answer, he told them, was that the balls had blemishes, were different colors and ages and went by different names, but they were all golf balls to be treated the same. Those gathered on this day likewise had differences but should be treated the same as they are all people.

The focus was for the children to learn something new, stay safe and have fun.

“Hopefully, one thing they’ll take away from this is how relaxing the game is,” Parker said. “Whenever they start getting older and they’re in some more stressful situations, they start to think, ‘maybe I can take a step back,’ maybe they’ll try it.

“They will take away that respect factor as well,” he continued. “They’re going to understand that people like us are out here because we care about them. There are lots of people like us. Hopefully, they’ll find a bunch more people like us so if they do get in trouble or get in a pickle, they’ll be able to have somebody to help them out.”

The children were learning what for most was a new sport, although one of them, Bentley Hall, 10, came to a camp session last summer. The rising fifth-grader said his favorite thing about the camp is “that I get to hit the ball in practice.”

There are nine community centers participating in the camps, said Peter Maierhofer, Assistant Director of the City of Savannah Recreation and Leisure Services Department.

“It’s nice to get them outdoors, especially in the early morning hours before it’s hot here in Savannah,” Maierhofer said. “I think it’s a really nice way to start (learning the sport). It gets them out, gets them to try something maybe they’ve never done before. It’s a fun opportunity for them.”

The adults, such as volunteer Tony Center, informed the campers that golf is a lifetime sport that can be played into old age. Bryan, a former basketball star at Savannah High School who played in college, said he wished he would have taken his father’s advice in this respect.

“If I had listened to my father years ago when I was their age, I would be good by now,” Bryan said. “He had warned me. He said, ‘You won’t be able to play basketball when you’re in your 50s. Take up golf.’ But I didn’t. I was like a horse with blinders on.”

Bryan asked the children about their extracurricular activities, and they listed soccer, band, theater, basketball, tennis, football and baseball. He used a basketball as a visual aid as he smoothly moved it around his torso and legs and balanced it on the backs of his hands.

“All of the extra things that you do, you’ve got to balance them with education,” Bryan told the campers. “We want things to go right in life. Education needs to be at the forefront of everything that you do, and I do mean everything. Education is first.”

Bryan’s wife, Linda Wilder-Bryan, also visited the camp on Monday and provided encouragement. District 3 Alderwoman on the Savannah City Council, Wilder-Bryan and her husband formed what was called the LB4 & After Foundation as a local nonprofit organization for community programming and advocacy. 

It was named for their son Lawrence Bryan IV, who was murdered at age 23 in an attempted armed robbery on Aug. 7, 2015. The foundation has honored local athletes at Benedictine, St. Andrew’s School and Savannah High.

“We give out awards, just trying to encourage young people to keep doing what they’re doing, keep them on a good path,” Bryan III said.

Other programs include the Celebration of Life each August, when thousands of bags of school supplies and personal-care products are distributed to those in need.

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Photo credits: Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report

Prep Sports Report golf coverage is presented by Bacon Park Golf Course, Savannah's only true municipal golf course! Located in the Heart of Midtown and and designed by legendary golf architect Donald Ross in 1926, Bacon Park Golf Course is Savannah's favorite golf destination. It's always a beautiful day to play at Bacon Park!

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