Andrews' still chipping away at mission to improve young golfers

Claudia Loucks
For the Republic
Young people ranging from second through eighth grades took part in the recent Andrews Golf Tournament at Geneseo County Club. The photo shows participants and volunteers in the golf tournament (front, from left): Sadie Nelson, Jocelynn Matthews, Gavin Galloway, Jase Wyffels, Harrison Vorac, Tate Nelson, Charlie Reed and Brock Oberle. Second row: Ella Hepner, Annie Reed, Ethan Hepner, Trace Hager and Riley Dwyer. In back, Ryan Gillespie, a volunteer who now is in charge of the tournament, and Jim Andrews, who founded the golf etiquette clinic.

Golf is more than a game to Jim Andrews of Geneseo.

In his quest to teach young people golf etiquette and respect for others, Andrews organized a free junior golf clinic at the Geneseo Country Club several summers ago for youth ages 7-16.

An avid golfer himself, he said his goal was not only to teach young people golf etiquette and respect for others on the course, but throughout their lives.

The clinics are held each summer and include one session each week where golf etiquette is presented through a video before participants take part in chipping and putting. The young people are divided into age groups.

“We let them play a little bit on the course after the first session,” Andrews said.

With the great response that first year, Andrews thought the clinic should become an annual event and it now includes a golf tournament for the youth.

“The kids seem to have a good time and their parents follow them along on the course, watching them play,” he said. “It is beneficial to everyone involved.”

What Andrews did not know was that in the second year of the clinic and tournament, one of the volunteers in the clinic, Matt Biddle, approached the board of the Geneseo County Club asking the tournament be named the Andrews Junior Golf Tournament.

Andrews was not aware of the tournament name change until the first year of the tournament when he was given a plaque of recognition for his dedication to youth golf programs.

He did get somewhat teary-eyed when the plaque was given to him and said his hope is that the clinic and tournament will continue for many years to come.

In recent years, another volunteer, Ryan Gillespie, has taken charge of the tournament and Geneseo High School girls’ golf coach Jon Murray has taken charge of the clinic and Andrews helps with both clinic and tournament.

Gillespie commented about the value of the clinic and tournament and said, “I had played in the old Geneseo Country Club Jr. Tournament years ago, way back when I was in eighth grade. When my wife, Erin, and I moved our family back to Geneseo in the summer of 2015 we rejoined the country club. That is when I met Jim Andrews.”

Andrews asked Gillespie if he would help out with the youth golf clinic that he offered each summer and Gillespie agreed. The next year Andrews asked Gillespie to take over the tournament.

“The goal of the tournament is to simply get kids out on the course having a lot of fun, showing good sportsmanship and showing their parents what a nice time can be had with the game of golf at our club,” Gillespie said. “Everyone seems to have a great time and I see shots from kids I couldn’t have dreamed of hitting back when I played in the tournament.”

Gillespie admits the tournament is a lot of work, and he added, “But it always is so much fun when you see the first fist pump from a boy or girl draining a putt or the smiles on their faces as the parents and members of the club cheer for them as they receive their plaques and medals.”

“Gillespie said he was aware the junior golf tournament took on the name of the Andrews Junior Golf Tournament in 2015 in honor of the many years of volunteerism that Andrews has put in helping kids learn the sport of golf.

“He’s been running the summer golf clinic for years and is always kind to the kids at the chub,” Gillespie said. “I’ve personally appreciated how he treats my own sons, Gavin and Declan. He shakes their hands, asks them, ‘how are you doing young men?”, and inquires about their games. He treats them, and all the youth of the club, like they’re real members and golfers out there. They walk a little taller after their interactions with Jim.”

“Jim’s wife, Mariane, and many of his regular golf buddies are the first to sign up and help out each year for the tournament and “I’m always very appreciative of that,” he said.

To Andrews, etiquette is very important in the game of golf, and he said, “That‘s where it all begins. I hope to see kids get involved in golf at an early age and maybe this clinic and tournament will attract more young people to the game.”

He talked about the value of young people learning the game of golf, and said it not only teaches them patience, but also to be respectful of others…”The respect for others is not just for the game of golf, but also in all aspects of their lives.”

Golf is a hobby that keeps him from thinking about his own health problems. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 and continues to be monitored.

In addition to an ongoing battle with skin cancer, he was hospitalized in 2014 when fluid gathered around his heart, and not long after being released from the hospital, he was back on the golf course.

He has been playing golf for nearly 70 years and recalled in his youth when he rode his bike to the Country Club to play the course. His own father, the late Jim Andrews, died when Andrews was 11 and he said how much he would have appreciated being able to play golf with his own dad.

“I carried my clubs on the handle bars of my bike,” Andrews said, and added that sometimes he would play with friends and other times by himself.

“I pretty much taught myself the game of golf,” he said. “I want these kids to have the benefit of knowing that other people care enough about them to help them learn a game they can enjoy all of their lives, and I couldn’t run this clinic without the help of many volunteers.”

Through the years he played golf as often as time allowed. Now retired from Deere & Co., he and his wife, Mariane, are on the links as often as possible.