Golf’s off-season proved to be a hole in one when it came to life experience for one assistant golf professional.
Tim Kearon, an assistant pro at the Nissequogue Golf Club, spent four months in Taipei City in Taiwan, teaching students in third to sixth grades how to play golf along with the sport’s core values this past winter. The East Setauket resident said the golf program, Tsai Hsing Golf Academy, was established by Dominic Chang, a U.S. businessman and member of the Nissequogue Golf Club who founded the Family Golf Centers chain. John Elwood, the club’s head professional, worked with Chang to put the initial program at the private Tsai Hsing School together, where the businessman is board chairman of the school.
Chang said in an email that the golf instruction department was created in the fall of 2017 with a full-time Professional Golfers Association instructor and one full-time Taiwan PGA instructor along with several part-timers on hand. He credited Elwood with being instrumental in putting the initial program together, and Kearon with refining it further through his teaching.
Kearon, 25, said he thought it would be an opportunity of a lifetime when Chang invited him to teach there.
“I thought it was a no brainer,” he said. “As soon as it was given to me, I took it. I didn’t take much time to think it over, and it was a big step for me.”
While golf is popular in Taipei, Kearon said it’s not always easily accessible, and to have a golf program in a school is unusual. The program is a mandatory physical education class that lasts 45 minutes twice a week for four weeks. The assistant golf pro, who participated in a similar program called First Tee in Nassau County where he grew up, said the core values of golf — respect, honesty, sportsmanship, confidence, leadership, judgment, etiquette, responsibility and perseverance — create the main lesson plan. He said out of 1,000 students perhaps only 100 are good at golf but most will learn those values.
“At least with the core values, 100% of the kids are going to walk away with something positive,” he said. “If they don’t like golf, they have that which is a huge part of it.”
Chang agrees with the philosophy.
“Because golf teaches similar virtues on and off the golf course, Tsai Hsing School decided to incorporate a golf program as part of physical education for third- through sixth-grade students, as kids learn these important core values before they hit the first golf ball,” Chang said.
Kearon said that while teaching is second nature to him, being in a foreign country was outside of his comfort zone, even though he found learning about a different culture and food enjoyable.
While the students spoke English, he encountered a language barrier outside of academia, but he said the people of Taipei couldn’t have been more helpful and welcoming, and the students were extremely polite.
“For me, I appreciated that more than anything and that really got me through,” he said. “I don’t think I would have made it had it not been for the locals being so friendly and just everyone in general taking care of me and looking out for me,” Kearon said.
While Kearon was there, Elwood was able to visit him for a week to see the school firsthand. Elwood said it was helpful for him to see how it operated in person, and he was pleased Kearon took the opportunity as many golf pros in the cooler weather head to Florida or sit it out.
“It was a nice opportunity for him to see a different culture,” Elwood said. “Also, it helps differentiate Tim from every other assistant pro in the area, something unique that’s going to stand out, I think, probably for the rest of his life.”