AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
CORNISH: All summer, dozens of lower-income kids in Providence, Rhode Island learned golf. They spent their days on a nine-hole course, an oasis in a gritty neighborhood.
Reporter John Bender went to the golf course and sent this report.
JOHN BENDER, BYLINE: Standing on a putting green at the edge of the course, you can see all 26 lush acres. Hills slope down to a small pond. A driving range sits on the opposite end.
Course Director PJ Fox remembers when this space was very different.
PJ FOX: Everything from cars being dumped, dirt bikes being driven, prostitution, drug deals - unfortunately there was a homicide - a double homicide up here.
BENDER: A local businessman and avid golfer helped secure the land for use as a golf course 13 years ago. The course is called Button Hole. During Providence's manufacturing days, scores of buttons washed ashore from a nearby shoe factory. Fox says the location gives the kids access, and the price provides the opportunity to learn how to play.
FOX: Once you go through one of our six week programs, a kid becomes what we call a Button Hole kid, and they're allowed to hit a bucket of balls and play a course for a dollar until they're 18 years old.
BENDER: Down on the driving range, 12-year-old Mariah Nugent shows off her clubs.
MARIAH NUGENT: And these are all my irons, and I have this which is my putter which I play on the putting green. And now I just pulled all of these out. (Laughter).
BENDER: Nugent never played golf before Button Hole. Now she's setting up for a drive.
MARIAH: Yeah, you might want to stand behind the black line so I don't hit you.
BENDER: She leans back, swings and...
MARIAH: That did not go well.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Let me show you how it's done.
BENDER: Nugent may not be hitting any hole-in-ones, but she's noticing that golf is helping her in school.
MARIAH: I'd say I've gotten better at math. I really have because I have to, like, measure the distances between, like, how far I'm going to hit it and what angle I'm going to hit it at.
BENDER: Imani Ramirez is often spotted lugging his bulky golf bag down Providence city streets.
IMANI RAMIREZ: My mom signed me up. So I didn't want to do it, but she forced me to come. I thought golf was a boring sport.
BENDER: That was a year ago. Now his mom, Ivette Laboy, can't keep him away and says this passion might never have surfaced without Button Hole.
IVETTE LABOY: You know, I can't afford it. I know it's expensive sport. But they have helped. So he loves it. He can be here every day if you let him.
BENDER: Program head PJ Fox says not only is golf good for the kids, but kids are good for golf, breathing new life into a sport where membership is dying in some places.
FOX: If golf is to survive, there needs to be facilities like Button Hole that can help teach the kids what it means to be successful so that private clubs can - will have members that can afford it.
BENDER: Over on a putting green, a group of kids gather around the hole taking practice shots. One by one, they each miss until finally...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That looks good just like that. That's the way you putt it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nice. He saw it. He saw it.
BENDER: For NPR News, I'm John Bender in Providence.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.