Central Florida has some incredible golf courses, but they’re not necessarily accessible to kids growing up in the West Lakes neighborhood near Camping World Stadium.
That’s why the Arnold Palmer Putting Experience in the recently renovated Lake Lorna Doone Park is even more important for the community. The new 9-hole putting facility is modeled off the greens of the back nine at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club, which is hosting the Arnold Palmer Invitation this week.
Not only is the putting facility open to the community, but it’s also home to new First Tee – Central Florida programming.
“The kids have just loved it,” said Julie Steinbauer Leventhal of First Tee – Central Florida. “It was really special for me that first day when a bunch of kids came over from the playground and asked to try golf.”
Twenty kids from the nearby Northwest Neighborhood Center currently participate in weekly First Tee programming at Lake Lorna Doone Park. The city of Orlando allows the group to practice full swing shots on the park’s football field. “It’s really cool because the kids are getting to experience something new,” said Leventhal.
Some of the participants experienced another first this week when they attended Kid’s Day at the API on Monday. And the aim is to keep them connected to the sport – all 20 kids who play with First Tee at Lake Lorna Doone received a set of golf clubs which will hopefully encourage them to stick with the game and even get their families involved, Leventhal said.
Lake Lorna Doone Park recently underwent an $8 million renovation which not only brought golf but also a playground, football fields, basketball courts, a splash pad and the Winnie Palmer Nature Trail to the historically under resourced community. The 12-acre park is one of the oldest in Orlando and hosted the South’s first integrated Little League Baseball game in 1955.
The project serves as an example of planning and collaboration between many community organizations, including the City of Orlando, Florida Citrus Sports, Lift Orlando and the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation.
First Tee – Central Florida previously offered programming at community centers in the area, but this marks its first entry into green spaces in the West Lakes neighborhood. After starting small, the chapter