Walton honored for years helping junior golf

John Paul Walton, a United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF) Teaching Professional in Charleston, is now a member of the African American Golfers Hall of Fame. He was among the 2017 class inducted into the Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Bear Lakes Country Club in Florida in May. Walton, 71, was recognized for his many years of service to the game, particularly with developing junior golf programs.
Before there was a First Tee chapter in Charleston, Walton was filling what he saw as a void for junior golf. Walton says he noticed the lack of opportunities for juniors after moving to the Charleston area from Kansas City in 1994.
“I was a little amazed that in an area that offers a lot for golfing experience, there was not more for juniors,” he recalls. “In the Midwest, there was an African American organization that started with a viable amount of African American participation. That was missing here so I talked to people around town , and they were excited about the possibility of new programs for them.”
He began working with the Boy Scouts troop at the Air Force Base, and the Military Magnet school to develop junior golf programs. Walton says the school was very amenable to the game, given the discipline involved with the curriculum.
“Golf is a great mentoring tool, and with the aid of a USGA-funded organization, it was a chance to expose young men to the game,” he says.“Sportsmanship and integrity are a key part of the curriculum in learning the game. When you make a mistake, there’s a penalty, which translates to life as well. We tried to instill those values of the game and told them it follows you in life.”
Walton created O.K. (Our Kids) Golf, a company he co-owned with Steve Conrad, to teach golf skills and spread the values and discipline of the game. Walton says he made a point of inviting parents to get involved as well.
“When I worked with the Little Legends league, we recruited volunteers out of the parents. We would have seven to eight adults with seven kids per adult and play nine holes. Parents would act as coaches and help with practicing,” he says. “That’s the way I learned, through observing something. I think it’s important for kids to see parents involved in the game. The kids want their parents to see them do well, so they pay a little more attention.”
Walton also helped develop after-school programs, using specialized golf equipment for safety, to expose more kids to the game. In 2010, Walton received a SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) award, which goes to outstanding minority owned businesses. He continued operation of the company until December of last year.
Walton has run summer camps, taught at Frankie’s Fun Park and developed a golf mentoring initiative that operated primarily at the Links at Stono Ferry. “Greg Wood was very supportive and we had assistance from the golf pro. About 20 to 30 young men were involved and 90 percent had no golfing experience,” he says. “You can tell when they’re excited about something just by the expression on their face and that was very evident and great to see.”
He says opportunities for juniors have improved locally, but he would like to see more.
“The biggest change is an organization like the First Tee makes the golfing experience accessible to all of the youth population, especially in the Charleston area where several courses are involved,” says Walton. “I think people are more open to the game than they used to be. There are programs at most high schools and minority kids involved in those programs. The numbers are not what you would hope, especially for this area where the minority population is substantial, but it’s better.”
Walton says he traveled to Florida with his wife for the Hall of Fame ceremony, and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He says he was especially pleased to have Jim Dent, a 12-time Senior PGA Tour winner, present the plaque to him. “
“I had met him previously when I was marshaling a tournament in Kansas City,” says Walton. “He was the one who pinned me (at the ceremony), and that was very special to me.”