KC homeowner builds inner-city golf course for neighborhood children

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new golf course at 40th Street and Wayne Avenue opened Tuesday, and Harris Park's creator took an unusual approach to bring golf to kids in the inner city.

After three months of construction shaping the course, Christopher Harris stood in one of the tee boxes overlooking a green at Harris Park's new Midtown Sports and Activity Center moments before the first group of children to try it out were set to arrive.

"What Chris has done here I have not seen or heard of ever before," said Brigette Chirpich, executive director of The First Tee of Greater Kansas City.

Harris brought in The First Tee golf program to teach neighborhood children the game. They use soft, low-flight balls in the condensed space. Right now there are six tee boxes and two greens, making a total of 12 holes.

"We can mimic just about every shot you'd expect," Chirpich said.

"This is called a pitch shot, so we're using the same form but it's a different swing," Jonathan Behee said as he instructed 11-year-old Kevin MacArthur.

"He took a lot of time so he can teach young kids like me that never played golf before to come out and play golf," Kevin said.

Kevin MacArthur takes a swing at Harris Park's new golf course.

Surrounding abandoned homes have been torn down and phase one of the golf course is complete, but there's still one more house to remove -- the home Harris and his family shared for 50 years.

"The house is actually coming out. We're going to put in another green, so we'll have three greens and 18 shots," he explained.

More than one person told Harris along the way that tearing down his home to build a golf course in the inner city was a wild idea, but those first smiles of young golfers at Tuesday's clinic are hard to beat.

"What I'm really hoping is there will be hundreds of more kids coming out of here that are going to play this game the rest of their lives," Chirpich said.

"I think this is an awesome sport. I'm going to have to look into it after football," Kevin said.

Fall golf instruction continues at Harris Park on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. through Nov. 20.