Capital One's The Match

The Match's host course, The Park, offers an inspiring program that goes beyond simply teaching kids about golf

February 16, 2024

It is quite fitting that the first mixed edition of Capital One’s The Match will take place at The Park, a municipal-affiliated course in West Palm Beach, Fla., with a mission to make golf more inclusive. Don’t be surprised if you see local elementary-school kids mixing it up with Rose Zhang, Lexi Thompson, Rory McIlroy and Max Homa before the pros compete Feb. 26. Every kid associated with The Path—the community programming extension of The Park—will receive free admission to The Match.

The Path was created in spring 2023, when the Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner-designed course at The Park opened. The Path’s goal, says director Dave Andrews, is “to drive and inspire the next generation of leaders.”

“We believe in life, and in golf, there’s a path for everyone,” Andrews says. “The program is called The Path because we want to take those that are disconnected from the path in whatever way possible and bring them back.” To achieve that goal, The Path has numerous initiatives, including Fairway Finders, an after-school program for elementary and middle school kids.

So far, Fairway Finders has partnered with four local schools (three elementary and one middle school) and offers free tutoring, homework help, physical education and golf instruction. Kids from each school come to The Park two afternoons a week. At The Park, they work with paid part-time teachers who are also from the local schools. Each afternoon consists of one hour of academic help and one hour of physical education and golf instruction. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the kids have the option to stay for art and STEM classes, which are also open to kids not in the Fairway Finders program.


The Path employs four paid part-time teachers to provide academic help to kids in the Fairway Finders program.

Courtesy of The Park

To best identify the kids most in need of the program, The Path allows each partner school to assign their 24 spots at their discretion. Given that the schools have the most information on which students are facing difficult family situations or are having academic troubles, letting school officials select the kids is more effective than an application process, Andrews says. And since the after-school teachers come from the same schools as the kids, “The teachers already have a head start in knowing what those kids most need help with,” says Brian Conley, The Park General Manager.

Fairway Finders currently serves 77 students from 49 families and offers translators so kids can learn in their native languages if they are having trouble with their work. “We have parents who don't know anything about the game of golf and don't speak English, but we have somebody here that can tell them exactly what we're doing and what we're working on with their kid,” Andrews says. “The trust bridge is now built with that family and other families in the surrounding community.

“We’ve had at least three kids that have been in and out of homeless shelters, have couch-surfed or have registered for a school with absolutely no address at all,” Andrews says. “We provide free snacks, free drinks, clothes and warm food on certain days just to make sure that they know they’re loved and taken care of.”

The Park at West Palm Beach
The Park at West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach, FL

In the current age of new elite private clubs and faraway destinatiion resorts, the opening of a public municipal-affiliated golf course in an urban area is major news—especially when Tiger Woods shows up for the grand opening, like he did in March 2023.


The Park is the latest in a growing trend of public/private partnerships that have fueled the redevelopment of numerous municipal courses around the country. The new course is set on the site of the former Dick Wilson-designed West Palm Beach Golf Course, one of the first notable designs of the post-World War II years when it opened in 1947 and long considered among the top municipal courses in the country.

That course closed in 2018 due to deteriorating playability and diminished interest and sat fallow for several years. Several plans for different uses of the land were proposed before a group of local citizens, led in part by Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, raised $56 million in individual donations to re-imagine the property as a community gathering space with amenities that include, in addition to golf, youth activities and educational programs, shopping and dining. Woods was one of the donors. (Note: the PGA of America is not connected to the project.)


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In addition to the Fairway Finders program, The Path has partnered with Forest Hill Community High School (which sits adjacent to The Park’s property) to create the A.C.E. Academy. The program, which stands for “Achieving Character Excellence,” offers a year-long paid internship to high school students to introduce them to the golf industry. The A.C.E. Academy targets sophomores, with the goal of keeping them in the program for the rest of their time in high school so they can gain meaningful experience, build a business network and connect with scholarship opportunities.

In order to reach kids who are not part of partner schools or who live too far away from The Park, The Path has created an outreach initiative called SNAG Golf, which stands for “Starting New at Golf.” The program takes advantage of a mobile golf unit, with The Park’s PGA professionals traveling to local schools and taking over their P.E. classes for the day, introducing the kids to the game of golf.


Dave Andrews works with kids teaching STEM classes that involve golf and science (Photo courtesy of The Park).

It is all part of a goal that, while ambitious, feels attainable given the great work done so far, less than one year into The Path: “Our hope is that in the coming years, we will be able to introduce the game of golf to every single kid in West Palm Beach,” Andrews says.

Except for the art and STEM classes and their weekend junior classes, each of these programs is offered for free, the result of $55 million in donations when The Park opened. The development of The Park was led in part by Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, who helped solicit donations from approximately 140 founding donors, including Tiger Woods’ TGR Foundation and a few NFL team owners. (Note: the PGA of America is not connected to the project.)

The course and The Path are funded by these donations, creating a private-public partnership between The Park and the city of West Palm Beach. Interestingly, no one was allowed to donate more than $1 million to the project. Says Conley: “We didn’t want to create a pecking order or a hierarchy. This was all for the good of the project, not for the good of any one individual.”

What’s more, Conley says any net operating income that comes out of the golf course will go back into The Path and the program. With The Path on solid financial footing and their numerous programs growing, The Park is positioned to be a positive force in the community for a long time. That inclusivity is perhaps best displayed each week during Family Fun Fridays, when local families can come hangout at The Park. “The music is fun, the dogs are running around, people are barefoot,” Andrews says. “I hand out putters to the kids to play the putting course. The parents are hanging out.

“It removes the proverbial walls that exist in the game of golf; that it’s not for me, and I’m not dressed the right way, or I don’t belong there. We break those down with our core value of fun, and we want to make sure that no matter what, you’re welcome here.”