LUTZ — Beth Kaufman is a pushover — a real softy who loves kids and will do anything for them, especially when it comes to golf.
Kaufman owns the Lutz Executive Golf Center and does it as much as a labor of love as a love for the game. Her course is a nine-hole track with mostly 8-iron shots off the tee for the grown-ups.
But, as much as the center is a great place for regular players to work on their short games, it’s mostly about the kids, including children who are challenged with various disabilities.
She held a summer golf camp that treated more than 277 kids. Many of them didn’t pay full fees. Kaufman isn’t thinking about the money, at least those are the words of Gary Burdick, a teacher who plays on the Florida Senior Golf Tour.
“Beth is a philanthropist who will do anything for children, especially those with disabilities,” Burdick said. “It’s all about the kids out here.”
The summer camp ended with a Mini Masters Tournament for kids ages 4-16. Several special-needs children actually won their age divisions. One of the winners is autistic and had to transfer schools because of all the teasing he was receiving at his previous school. One child told Kaufman that his only friends were people he found on the Internet.
“They come out here with their disabilities and are happy for awhile and learn that they can do anything they want,” Kaufman said. “We teach them how to learn respect, sportsmanship, etiquette and they learn it really fast. The kids love it and I love them right back.”
Kaufman might be just a little humble.
“She is a pied piper,” Burdick said. “Do you know what it is like to see a disabled kid make a putt and win a trophy? There’s nothing like it. She doesn’t make a lot of money off of this because of her generosity and she doesn’t really care. She makes these kids laugh and smile and forget the days that they were kidded in school. It’s a special place.”
The staff is very small, with two people doing most of the work. Kaufman takes care of the plants and shrubbery, and Burdick takes care of many of the other responsibilities. The course is in fine shape and, even on a recent Saturday, was crowded despite the rain that pelted the course. To make things just a little more interesting, the course contains a disc golf course that means that golfers will be sharing their nine holes with people tossing Frisbees. Kaufman doesn’t advertise, but the course gets by through word of mouth.
Even though school has started, Kaufman is offering a New Player’s Club from September through December. Kids who join will get a discount on any golf they play along with a club card and a free bucket of balls. It is available for children ages 6 through 16, but younger kids will be accepted with permission from Kaufman, who simply goes by the nickname “The Boss.” Bruce Springsteen probably wouldn’t mind.
The Lutz Executive Golf Center is at 2220 Newberger Road in Lutz. Call (813) 949-6687 for information on golf or the New Player’s Club.