Weatherford News

Hogan Center exciting area golfers

The Ben Hogan Learning Center for the First Tee of Ft. Worth designed by Stephen Darrow and DMS Architects in Ft. Worth, Tx.
The Ben Hogan Learning Center for the First Tee of Ft. Worth designed by Stephen Darrow and DMS Architects in Ft. Worth, Tx. Photo courtesy

When something is working, why not do more?

That's the thinking behind the new Ben Hogan Learning Center that is coming to Parker County. It will be located at Squaw Creek Golf Course in Willow Park and will be only the second of its kind in the United States, the other being in Fort Worth.

And while it is still a couple years from opening, folks are already excited about what it will bring to the area.

"Fundraising has already begun and we hope to start construction in 2018," said Squaw Creek Golf Professional Lynn Vaughn. "It will be a plume in Parker County's hat."

The Learning Center, which is planned to be open by spring in 2019, will support the First Tee program by providing an indoor location for the classroom type work that is part of the program. It will also provide meeting space for educational and mentoring type programs.

"It is very important to note that the First Tee program and Hogan Learning Center are NOT about developing great golfers, but about developing great young men and women through the nine core values the First Tee teaches," Vaughn said. "This program is for all kids regardless of skill or economic background."

If a child cannot afford the program cost (which are very inexpensive) or does not have golf equipment, the First Tee will cover the cost and give golf clubs to any kid who needs them, Vaughn said.

"The golf ball couldn't care less who you are," First Tee of Fort Worth Executive Director Kevin Long said. "First Tee gives us a platform to make golf accessible to all families."

The local chapter of the First Tee is part of a worldwide organization that focuses on helping young people not only learn the game of golf, but also develop values that will help them in other facets of life. Along with Squaw Creek, the program has various branches in Fort Worth and one in Granbury.

Vaughn has been running a branch of the First Tee since 2016 and it has been very popular. In fact, the initial turnout was a surprise even to him.

"I expected to get a number back of about 75 kids, and it was 269," he said.

Since then, they've been averaging between 200 and 300 youths per month. This led to seizing the opportunity to expand the Hogan Learning Center to Parker County, based on the popularity of youth golf locally.

"I think it is going to be a great opportunity for all levels of golfers to have a great source of excellent instruction close to home," Brock High School Golf Coach Keith Guyon said. "I think it can be a great benefit, especially to young golfers as they are learning the game to build solid mechanics. It is so important to begin the process of establishing good habits early in a young golfer.

"And with the facility being in Parker County, it is going to be a lot easier to access great instruction than having to travel into the Metroplex to receive that type of instruction. I see it as a win/win for our golf program and our golfers that are wanting to take their game to next level."

Aledo Golf Coach Jeff Lemons echoed those thoughts.

"I'm very excited about the Ben Hogan Center. I see the numbers of kids practicing with the First Tee program at Squaw Creek and the level of talent and instruction involved and can't help but look forward to those kids participating in the Aledo Golf program," he said. "The younger they start, the more skillful they will be in not only their scoring, but also knowledge of the rules and etiquette.

"Golf is the only sport where the participants make their own rulings and judgements in competition, so the more experience they get the more prepared they will be."

The Ben Hogan Foundation did a statewide search for a location for Learning Center No. 2. With the program off to a great start at Squaw Creek, and the strong growth of Parker County and Western Tarrant County, Ben Hogan Foundation Executive Director Robert Stennett said it was an easy decision.

"We really like the community spirit, and this is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state of Texas, and that gives us an opportunity to reach the largest number of kids," he said. "That's what it's all about."

Parker County and the surrounding area has no less than a dozen golf courses that are within a 25-minute drive. Plus, nearby Hood County has several more.

"Every time we grow the program it creates lifelong golfers, and that, of course, creates better high school players," said Kevin Long, executive director of First Tee of Fort Worth. "I'm a former high school coach myself, and I know from experience it can only help your program when players have that experience. We've had a significant number of young people coming in to Rockwood from Parker County, so it made sense to expand there."

Because golf is so popular in the area, the center will not only serve Parker County. It opens up opportunities for young golfers from a variety of surrounding cities.

"We will not be at all surprised to see participation from as far away as Mineral Wells, Springtown, Granbury, etc.," Vaughn said.

"Yet bet! Any chance for these kids to get more help and instruction is beneficial for golf," said Granbury High golf coach Steve Ward, whose team advanced to the Class 5A State Tournament last season.

Vaughn said the Fort Worth Ben Hogan Learning Center is expected to serve somewhere in the neighborhood of 29,000 youngsters this year. The new facility will include many of the same amenities as the one already in existence, including a library and a Ben Hogan Museum.

"Again, I cannot stress enough that the public needs to understand that this is not about creating great golfers. Just great kids," he said.