He’s been called a Pied Piper by a member of the Chastain Park Conservancy. He’s been called a savior by parents. But Matt Adams says he just loves teaching children the game of golf.
“He’s devoted his life to teaching kids how to golf and how to respect the game at the same time,” said Jay Smith, vice chairman of the conservancy.
Adam teaches golf clinics to children at the North Fulton Golf Course in Chastain Park. He’s been teaching for 35 years, 12 years at Chastain. He also helped found the annual Sutton Middle School Invitational Golf Tournament, which draws teams from 20 to 30 schools each year to the Bobby Jones Golf Course.
Formerly a real estate broker for golf properties in California, Adams was recovering from a back injury from an earthquake in the 1990s when a golf professional he knew requested he teach a golf clinic in Atlanta. Following the two-day clinic, Adams says he received a lot of positive feedback from the parents, who wanted him to stay, as well as from the friend who had asked him to teach the clinic. “She felt I had a certain way with the kids,” he said.
He eventually moved permanently to Atlanta, and started teaching at Bobby Jones before moving to the North Fulton course. “It just mushroomed into what I’m doing today,” Adams said.
Adams had played professionally in mini-tours and tournaments on the West Coast until he suffered his injury. “The time with the kids was a healing process for me. I was close to the game, and I didn’t have to sit around feeling sorry for myself. I was still at the golf course every day, getting kids involved with golf, and passing around a love of the game.”
He said parents whose kids were not good at sports started to come to him to get them involved with golf. “It made me feel worthy again,” he said.
These days some 40 to 50 children make their way to Adams’ golf clinic each week. He’s had children come from as far away as Russia to train with him, and Adams’ students have moved on to play golf for schools such as the University of Georgia, Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi.
Parents of Adams’ students poured on the praise as they were dropping their children off at the golf course one recent afternoon.
“He teaches them etiquette like shaking hands and saying ‘thank you,’” said Theresa Southerland, whose two daughters, Reagan and Steele, take lessons with Adams. “He just has a way with kids. One year he gave every one of them a new club or shoes.”
“I think he’s awesome,” Reagan said. “He tells good stories.”
Southerland also praised Adams’ teaching technique, saying that when Reagan was having an issue with her swing, he was able to correct it in “about two seconds.”
“He has a great eye for it,” she said. “What a blessing to have him right here.”
Some of the rules and advice Adams was working on at the golf course could easily be life lessons. They include: “You’re not in a tournament for yourself if you’re playing team golf,” and “Think about the next shot, not the last. The most important shot in golf is the next one.”
Lisa Perlin says Adams has taught her two young sons, Evan and Jack, “good sportsmanship and kindness and patience with golf. He just goes out of his way.”
But Adams is slow to take a lot of credit for the children’s behavior. “A lot of it has to do with the parenting,” he said.
He also credits the game itself.
“Golf has built in a sense of self-discipline, as opposed to other sports,” he said. “In this sport, if you bend the rules, it’s a slap in the face. There’s a sense of integrity.”