Thirty years ago, Kathy Hester had what can be described as a sports epiphany. She was 26 years old, a big time softball player and deputy marshal for the City of Monroe, La. A fellow softball player invited Hester to a local golf course.
“I was always an athlete; played softball and basketball in high school,” she says, “but I told her I had never played golf and knew nothing about it. I had never even held a golf club.”
The friend was shocked when Hester got on the par three hole and sent a pretty shot right down the middle of the 155-foot green. “I didn’t know I had done anything good. I thought that was what I was supposed to do,” Hester recalls. “I was hooked and quit softball cold turkey. I started working my behind off at golf.”
Her hobby became a career 10 years ago when she gave up her job to become a full-time certified golf instructor. In 1997, she worked up to class A level in the Ladies Professional Golf Association. For a while, she was head pro at a country club in Rayville, La., but decided to head east when the club began having financial difficulties. That move brought her to Vicksburg where she served as assistant pro at Clear Creek Club for four years. In 2006, she was selected Teacher of the Year for Guaranteed Golf Schools, doing business as Kathy Hester’s Golf Center of Vicksburg.
Later, she and two other people formed On Target Golf School, a teaching system and model for independent golf instructors. In addition to her Vicksburg location, Hester takes her golf school on the road. She presently has three locations in the Jackson area.
“It’s all about convenience for clients,” she says. “It’s like a mobile golf school. I take it to them, and I’ll go anywhere.”
Hester held a ladies golf clinic at the recent Viking Classic Tournament where at least half of the class was made up of former students.
“My students are everywhere,” she says. “I just love teaching. I love to play, but for me teaching is more rewarding than playing. When you see students hit that first good shot and feel so good about themselves, there’s nothing like it.”
Hester grew up in the small town of Olla, La., where she was active in high school sports. “My bother played golf and I begged him to take me with him. Now he regrets that he didn’t,” she says.
Giving girls the opportunity to play golf is important to Hester, the mother of two daughters. That’s why she worked diligently to get golf for girls in Mississippi high schools. While living in Monroe she coached boys and girls high school teams. After moving to Vicksburg, she talked with the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s director and executive committee, who sent out surveys to all public schools. Sixty percent were interested in golf for girls.
“They wanted to know how it was done in Louisiana. I did the first tournament for them with just 22 girls the first year, then 36 the second year and 63 the third year,” she says. “It really grew fast, and this year the schools had their first championship tournament. The private schools have started it, too.”
Her role in establishing golf programs for high school girls is one of Hester’s proudest accomplishments, especially with the opportunities for girls to earn scholarships. “It’s hard to describe how good I felt when I heard about the first one. A father told me his daughter was going to college on a golf scholarship and thanked me,” she recalls.
Hester is a firm believer in the benefits of playing golf. “Golf helps people in so many ways and teaches kids so many things about life in general,” she says. “Life is not fair, and golf is not, either. It teaches integrity, honesty, discipline and social skills. Golf can be used in business. You never know who you’ll meet and where it will take you.”
She especially likes the On Target method of teaching golf, noting its convenience and affordability. “The classes are simple, fun and basic. Everybody enjoys doing it,” she says. “I want to spread these golf schools all over the country, beginning with area cities such as Atlanta, Dallas, Little Rock, Memphis and Birmingham.”
To begin that process, Hester will use a grant she received from the National Association for the Self-Employed. The $5,000 grant comes through the association’s Business Development Grant Program and will be used to recruit qualified golf instructors and increase awareness of the school.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.