Bill “Chief” Robertson fell in love with the game of golf during his college days at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Over the past 20 years he has given back to the game, and introduced the game to hundreds of juniors.
Robertson’s annual junior golf clinic, holding the sixth of seven sessions at the Fairfield Driving Range on North Lee Highway Monday, has provided inspiration for many young golfers from throughout the area.
Some of these juniors have gone on to participate in middle school, high school and collegiate golf. There have been no Tiger Woods, yet, but several golfers have reached a high level of excellence.
Robertson said Monday he was introduced to the game when he took golf as an elective in college. “I almost flunked it,” he said with a grin. “Still, I learned to enjoy the game, and I developed a love for golf.
The former Bradley Central football coach was helping the late Jim Smiddy with the Bradley golf team in the 1980s, when he came up with the idea for the summertime golf clinic. “I wanted to help start our young golfers out right,” he said. “I also felt it would help them in their lives.
“I’ve never seen a kid with a bad attitude, who played golf (and stuck with the game),” Robert continued. “If they have a bad attitude, they don’t stick with it.”
Robertson said he wants to help the community’s juniors develop a love for the game. “Not every kid can play football, basketball or baseball,” he emphasized. “They need other options.”
A longtime Cleveland City Councilman, Robertson began his golf clinic at the old Rolling Hills Golf Course. Since the golf course closed a few years ago, it has moved to the Fairfield Driving Range and the city’s Waterville Golf Course. “Linda (Eldridge), manager of the driving range, has been very good to help us out,” Robertson said.
Each year Robertson uses Bradley Central golfers to help instruct the youngsters in hitting the golf ball and putting. The clinic is for kids 5- to 17-years-old (those who are still in school). BCHS golfers assisting this year include Daniel Graham, Eric Brooks and Casey Haney.
The clinic is now held over a seven-week period, with instruction on Mondays and a playday on Thursdays. Usually, there is a golf tournament to conclude the clinic, but this year no tournament is planned since the city’s Waterville Golf Course has been closed and the back nine is to be rebuilt.
Robertson’s golf clinic has enjoyed tremendous success over the years, but is in a slight decline due to several factors. There are only 40 to 50 juniors participating this year, while the clinic has had up to 150 juniors in years past.
“I guess we’ve average about 100 juniors each year, which means we’ve introduced golf to 2,000 to 2,500 young people,” Robertson said.
Participation in the clinic is free to the juniors. Expenses are provided by the Vince Gill Golf Foundation, which sponsors the Little Peoples Course in Franklin, an affiliate of the Professional Golf Association’s First Tee program.
This organization provides $1,500 to $3,000 to Robertson’s clinic each year. Volunteer Energy Cooperative also provides a grant of $400. “That enough to sustain us,” Coach Robertson said of conducting the clinic each year.
He added that there are many individuals in the community interested in the clinic, who support junior golf. Several of these individuals give golf clubs to be presented to some of the kids.
“We’re just trying to acclimate kids to golf,” continued Robertson. “We want to provide them with a golfing attitude.”
Robertson is hopeful the clinic will expand in the future, returning to the participation numbers of the past. “I have some ideas on how to increase interest among our juniors,” he said in conclusion.