Ray Savoy counts as a veteran golf coach who plies his trade at the Langston Golf Course in the District — a facility located along Benning Road in Northeast in the shadow of another famous D.C. sports landmark, RFK Stadium.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout August, a community gathering took place at the nearly 90-year-old golf facility, connecting D.C.’s at-risk youth with pillars of the District.
The city has seen numbers of violent incidents involving guns jump in the last year. As of Aug. 19, the District reported 127 murders — an increase of 8% from the same time in 2020, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
During the pandemic, homicides rose 19% from 2019 to 2020. While politicians, including President Joe Biden and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, continue to ramp up law enforcement efforts to curb crime, at the Langston Golf Course, Savoy and the group of neighborhood mentors he’s assembled employed a different approach. But it’s been a win-win for the creative, community event held twice weekly during August. “Clubs Not guns” served as an encouragement or the youth while inviting them to try their hand at the game of golf.
Golf more often tends to be associated with expensive country clubs and wealthy areas and privileged non-“BIPOC” youth. So, it’s a big deal for children from single-parent homes who live in rougher areas of the city to get an opportunity to have access to golf facilities and a golf pro willing to teach them the sport for free.
While working on this feature, this writer recently joined several young men who attend Eastern High School — a school located just a stone’s throw away from the golf course. Youth assembled in the golf course clubhouse. There, they shared how they learned about the summer program and why they continued to attend.
One of the young men actually spoke about having gun charges on his record. For him, the event’s slogan, “Clubs Not Guns” has real-life implications. Now, he says he plans to stay away from guns or those who may have them on their possession, finish high school and go to trade school in search of a career.
Male mentors from the community also talked about the challenges they faced during their youth and commented on what they’re today. Several of them faced troubled childhoods, were repeatedly in trouble with law enforcement – a few even spent time behind bars. However, they all said they found positive role models who helped them turn their lives around. Several have since learned a trade and started their own businesses.
While their levels of education vary, each mentors willingly reached out to the youth. But for everyone, the best part of the experience remained learning how to play golf.
During one lesson, Savoy directed those who wanted a free golf lesson to the driving range. He started with the very basics, showing the participants a number system on how to hold a club and how to complete a basic golf swing. By the end of the evening, the fledgling golfers proved they could cleanly hit a golf ball off a tee.
Even more important, the youth established positive connections and forged new relationships with men from their community who care about their futures.
One mentor, Alan James, while talking with the youth, invited those who may be interested in becoming caterers – the field in which he’s employed – to reach out to him.
“It’s each one teaches one,” he said.
For more information, go to www.langstonjunior.net.