Drive to Succeed: The PIN Seekers G.O.L.F. club aims to keep youth on the right track
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Golf in the Midwest is a sport typically played maybe seven or eight months out of the year, but the PIN Seekers Golf Club hopes the lessons they teach on the course to the community's young people will last a lifetime.
LeRoy Nard, Charlie Whitfield, Donnie Young and Edward Lynn Wright Sr. are longtime friends and founded the group five years ago.
"The competition and the fellowship is what really makes our group unique," Nard said.
The group is now more than 50 members strong.
"We have small business owners, bus drivers, GM workers [and] school teachers," Wright said.
All of the members are from different walks of life but all share the same goal - to sink a putt and to make a difference in our community.
"We wanted to as minority men, reach back and influence our minority youth," Nard said.
The rolling hills of McMillen Park Golf Course is their classroom to teach lessons on life. The PIN Seekers began a mentorship program three years ago.
Sisters Isys and Brianna Pranger were among the first to sign up. They say golf has become more than just a way to pass the time.
"It helps you to learn how to have patience," said Brianna.
"There's a lot of life lessons in it and it's just fun to play and it's relaxing," said Isys.
Then there's Akira Seals-Perkins who is now one of the the top golfers at Concordia Lutheran High School.
"You'll have your bad days and you'll have your good days, but the good days make the bad days even better," said Akira.
She spends her free time with the PIN Seekers.
"We try to get these kids while they're young and put them on the right path and do the right thing," Whitfield said.
But as some fairways are longer than others - maybe needing that extra stroke, the golfers say it takes longer for some kids than others to get on the right path.
"They come in with issues that they keep to themselves," said Young. "You can see them dealing with stuff in life."
Without mentors to show them the way, these golfers know all to often many take a wrong turn into the rough.
In 2016 Allen County set a record for homicides - 49. Out of 49 murders, 40 involved someone of a minority background, whether they were Black, Hispanic or Asian. Many of those involved were between the ages of 18 -30. The trend isn't a new one. Some were unfortunately caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, many simply somehow got off course.
(Donnie) "That's our next president," Young said. "That's whoever. We're losing our people so young. That's what scary."
Golf is a lot like life. You need discipline, confidence, patience and positive thinking to succeed in both. A golf coach helps a lot but most the PIN Seekers said you need to be able to take the good shots with the bad.
"Sometimes you get a good shot and you get a bad break just like life," Nard said. "You've gotta be able to deal with it. You've gotta be able to put a positive spin on it and keep moving forward."
The PIN Seekers are by no means pros - just regular guys who care about the game and care about our community's future. They've been able to reach dozens of minority youth but they know there are more out there who need a little help to stay on course.
"Golf is such an untapped resource in our community especially that I really have no idea how far it can go, but what I do know is that I want to reach as many kids in our community as possible," Nard said.
The PIN Seekers G.O.L.F. Club is working to become an official non-profit. They hope the status will open doors to expand and reach even more youth in our community.
The group recently wrapped up its fall session for kids and teens. The winter session starts in February. For more information about the group and how to join, click here.