In early 2023, Brick & Elm highlighted the new Tiger Flight Golf Club at Hamlet Elementary. The school’s then-principal R.J. Soleyjacks had teamed up with community volunteer and golf enthusiast Justin Thompson to use Hamlet’s response-to-intervention (RTI) hour to introduce several dozen students to the game of golf. 

Every Tuesday, Thompson used a grassy expanse on the school property to let kids hit plastic golf training balls while teaching them swing mechanics, golf etiquette and scoring. Soleyjacks explained that universities across the country offer golf scholarships, but thousands go unclaimed. “What an opportunity this could be,” he said, noting that his students’ average family income was well below the poverty line.

At the same time, the club introduced them to a sport they might view as inaccessible. “This helps them begin to see that they can be part of many things the world has to offer,” Soleyjacks said last year. Meanwhile, golf teaches a number of significant life lessons, from patience and resilience to the importance of time spent away from technology.

Learning golf was helping kids learn those broader skills while having fun.

The success of Hamlet’s program and the community interest it gained set Thompson and Soleyjacks to thoughts of expansion. The larger 79107 zip code can be considered economically disadvantaged, and has the highest crime rate percentage in Amarillo. Why not stretch beyond Hamlet?

Starting this year, the Tiger Flight Club has established official designation as a nonprofit organization, with a new name: 107 Golf Academy, based on the last three digits of the north Amarillo zip code, which includes other elementary schools like Eastridge, Emerson, Forest Hill, Mesa Verde, and George Washington Carver Academy.

“Hamlet provided us with a lot of learning opportunities,” says Thompson, now the new organization’s executive director. “Expanding to an afterschool program allows 107 Golf Academy to reach more schools in the 79107 area, and allows us to stay with them through middle school.” He has assembled a board of directors that includes Soleyjacks as chair.

The organization’s goal is to empower underserved youth in the 79107 area by creating access to golf and the community built around it, with fundraising efforts hopefully leading to a permanent facility for tutoring and comprehensive golf training.

107 Golf Academy is celebrating the organization’s launch at an official “Tee Off” gala from 6 to 9 p.m. May 2 at the Amarillo Club, 600 S. Tyler St., 30th floor. General admission for the event is $107, and it includes a raffle for a variety of donated prizes.

Learn more about the academy by searching 107 Golf Academy on Facebook.