By EDDIE HUFFMAN
Outside it was a cold and windy winter day, but inside Brian Uhl and J’oel Sanfilippo offered a reminder that spring is coming as they taught some basic golf skills to a group of young boys and girls.
“Back up just a little bit,” Uhl said, positioning a boy on a mat at one end of the gym at the Greensboro Montessori School. “You ready? Lock your shoulders back.”
Uhl stepped away, and the boy swung an iron at a lightweight ball. The ball didn’t make it to the portable mesh basket against the gym wall, but the boy did make contact.
“Good job, buddy, you did it!” Uhl told him. “Gimme five!”
Meanwhile, Sanfilippo worked with a group of three girls on a putting mat a few yards away. Since June 2009, the two have owned and operated the Guilford County franchise of Total Golf Adventures (TGA), a national “golf enrichment program” founded in Southern California in 2003.
Near the gym entrance, a pair of mothers watched their 5-year-old boys take their second golf lessons. So far, TGA offers after-school instruction one afternoon a week at seven schools around Greensboro, and they’re working on adding more to the list. They limit the classes to 10 students per instructor, and they’re in the process of hiring additional instructors.
“He’s played Putt-Putt and he’s gone with his dad, but I wouldn’t say he’s played golf,” said Nyla Khan as her son, Kublai, worked on his swing. “I just hope that he learns the basics and can go and enjoy it with his father.”
Khan was impressed that Uhl and Sanfilippo went beyond the mechanics of the sport: “They seem to be really good with the discipline and manners and etiquette.”
Character education is one of the hallmarks of the TGA program, which also includes tournaments for young people, summer golf camps, and a foundation working to introduce the sport to underprivileged children.
“We’re trying to mold them into being community leaders as they go through, but we’re taking golf and development at a very young age and trying to get the children wrapped into one package,” Uhl said. “Not only are they learning the great game of golf, but they’re being better individuals because of it.”
Uhl and Sanfilippo have held workshops at the Proehlific Park Youth Sports Complex in Greensboro, earning praise from owner Ricky Proehl, the football star who rose to prominence as a wide receiver at Wake Forest and went on to win two Super Bowls during a 17-year NFL career.
“Our kids are exposed to not only golf skills but golf etiquette, course management, character development and life skills,” Proehl said. “The TGA instructors are encouraging, flexible, understanding and exactly what Proehlific Park was looking for.”
Uhl offers lessons in respect as an example of TGA’s character education.
“At the end of class, I challenge the kids: ‘Next week, I want you to tell me what you did,’” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is – the dog, helping mom with the dishes, paying more attention in the classroom. And they’ll come back and say, ‘I didn’t yell at my sister last week.’ I correlate it with – we rake the bunkers. We don’t have to, but it’s a respect thing on the golf course. We rake the bunkers and keep them clean, like you would keep your bedroom clean, for example.”
While TGA works primarily with children in grades K-8, the instructors have done a little work with older kids and run a program for seniors at a Greensboro YMCA.
Uhl, 39, and Sanfilippo, 43, each have children of their own. They met in Myrtle Beach when Uhl was completing the PGA Professional Golf Management program, and decided to team up and start a TGA franchise in Sanfilippo’s hometown of Greensboro. Uhl, a native of the Detroit area, is getting his PGA card, and he previously sold real estate and worked as a firefighter. Sanfilippo, a golf enthusiast, returned to her native Greensboro after serving 18 years as a vice president with the Bank of Boston.
They did their homework before investing in TGA.
“I researched it,” Uhl said. “I called up Forbes magazine; I called up everybody. They were like, ‘They’re one of the fastest-growing junior golf programs in the country.’”
For more information about TGA, visit www.Greensboro.golftga.com or contact Brian Uhl at 843-450-3225 or Buhl@golftga.com.