REAL PRO: KIDS LEARNED ABOUT MORE THAN GOLF

WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL

Thursday, October 10, 2002
Lisa Westbrook has been on the telephone every night this week. She worried that some people might have missed the obituary about Earnest Morris, the pro at the Winston Lake Golf Course. And she knew that other parents would want to know that he was gone.

Her own children, twins, started playing golf when they were 5. They grew up under Morris’ watch, on the narrow fairways that make Winston Lake such a challenge. Every summer, for 10 years, they learned golf and the lessons that Morris drew from the game.
So she has been on the phone to Lewisville, Pfafftown and East Bend -all over the region – letting people know that Morris’s funeral is today, at Emmanuel Baptist Church, because they will want to be there.

Morris had been teaching golf at Winston Lake for so long that no one really noticed any more that he ran one of the most integrated summer youth programs around.

It no longer seemed strange that white parents from the suburbs were driving to East Winston -a part of town where they rarely ventured – so their children could learn golf.

“Golf camp has just been a part of our life for so long,” said Nancy Schloss of Pfafftown. “When I think about it, my heart just squeezes.”

Belief in golf

Morris’s death at age 59 took people by surprise. He went to the hospital with chest pains earlier last week. Doctors found a tear in his aorta. He died Friday in surgery.

He had arrived at Winston Lake from Tanglewood Park in 1985. The city wanted to start a youth program at Winston Lake, and Morris was known as the best teacher around.

Tanglewood and Winston Lake were worlds apart. Tanglewood was home to corporate tournaments. Winston Lake had opened in 1956 for blacks. By 1985, white golfers played there, but it was still thought of as the black course in town.

Morris wasn’t on some self-conscious mission to make Winston Lake an experiment in race relations. He didn’t set out to bring black and white children together. He just believed in golf. In its grace. In its etiquette. In its power to teach children patience, integrity and style.

Morris would joke that he ran the cheapest baby-sitting service in town. But that was because he liked to make people laugh.

“He believed golf taught you life lessons,” said his wife, Gwendolyn Morris.

And parents believed in him.

Of rules – and fun

The course at Winston Lake has its own rules. It’s a tough course, built before golf courses were designed for the weekend golfer.

“We’ve got holes out here at Winston Lake that will make a bull dog back up from a meat truck,” Morris would say.

Here are some of his rules: Always wear a hat. No sagging pants. Don’t drag your feet.

Follow the rules and he would let you have the course to yourself – all those rolling hills, trees and blue sky.

“I liked the freedom to go out and play nine holes with my buddies,” said Josh Hutchinson, 11. At other courses, he has to play with a grown-up.

Morris had another rule, for himself. Never turn a child away. He raised money to pay the $110 fee for children who couldn’t afford it. He always had spare clubs. Spare shoes. Spare hats. Spare change.

Morris came home laughing one day, flashing that big smile. It was hot. After morning camp had ended, he was ready for a rest, he told his wife. “And this one little fellow walked up to him, so little his clubs dragged on the ground, and he said, ‘Mr. Morris can you come and play a couple of holes with me?’”

That was another rule.

Spare time.