Nick Orlowski dodged bright yellow tennis balls as he slowly walked around the perimeter of the Eagle Creek tennis court Thursday morning.
A few feet away one of his students swung a racket with all her might in an attempt to hit Orlowski, a math and writing teacher at Manatee Middle School. But Orlowski didn’t mind being a moving target, as long as his students were enjoying learning how to play tennis.
Twenty-four Manatee Middle School sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students are participating in the second annual golf and tennis camp at Eagle Creek Golf and Country Club in Naples. The three-week long camp teaches students the basics of golf, tennis and swimming, said camp founder Sally Lam.
Orlowski said students who showed an interest in learning other sports, and who had excelled in academics, were chosen to participate in the camp. Students did not have to pay tuition, and transportation and lunch were provided thanks to Eagle Creek donors.
“We know they’re not going to be pros by the end of this, but its a start,” Orlowski said. “Who knows what will happen.”
Manatee Middle has several tennis courts, which Orlowski said he hopes students who participated in the camp will take advantage of next year.
Cody McCauley may be more likely found chipping golf balls on the school’s fields than playing tennis next year.
“I like golf better than tennis,” he said as he practiced his putting. “You really have to know how to stroke it in golf.”
Brad Womac, a golf pro at Eagle Creek, said he was thrilled to see so many students interested in the sport.
“It’s fun to have them out here,” he said. “These kids are the future of golf.”
Teaching future generations how to play golf and tennis is one of the main reasons for the camp, Lam said.
“I think (the students) think this is a very special place,” she said. “Our goal was to begin teaching them two games that are considered life-long games. But the most exciting part is that our entire membership is behind this program.”
Students are able to attend the camp for free thanks to donations from Eagle Creek members, as well as Southwest Florida Golf Charities. Buses pick the participants up at their regular bus stops each morning, and bring them home after lunch.
Junior Reseau, 13, said he was excited to get a chance to play golf and tennis again. Junior was one of only a handful of students who had played before, and said he was hoping to learn some new moves during the camp.
“I wanted to find something to do and have fun,” Junior said. “I’ve really learned how to focus on the hole at camp.”
Lam said planning for next year’s camp will begin almost as soon as this year’s ends.
“It’s just really cool to be part of this,” she said. “There are some super kids here.”