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Donald Mowen - He built area's junior golf program

April 23, 2006|By MARK KELLER

If Tiger Woods can be credited with getting more people interested in golf around the country, Donald Mowen would have to receive some credit for getting more local kids on the area courses.

The president and founder of the nonprofit Dick Kelly Memorial Foundation Inc., Mowen has been instrumental in building the Tri-State area's junior golf program from the ground up.

Mowen helped get the ball rolling in early 1994, shortly after the death of Dick Kelly, a former Herald-Mail employee and a longtime friend of Mowen.

"We wanted to do something for Dick and we wanted to do something for junior golf because Dick had done so much for that in the 1960s and it had really gone downhill," Mowen said. "I was asked if I would handle it."

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Mowen said he accepted the responsibility, but under one condition.

"I said, 'If we're going to do this, we're going to do it right. It's going to be first class, not some kind of shotgun gathering with a keg of beer,'" Mowen said. "I wanted it to be a kids' affair, not an adults' affair."

With the help of Hagerstown businessman Merle Elliott, the Dick Kelly Memorial Foundation was established in 1994 for the purpose of "Molding Tomorrow's Winners," as stated in its brochure, and awarding scholarships to golfers ages 12 to 18 in the Tri-State area.

The first Dick Kelly Memorial Team Championship, a golf tournament played at Black Rock Golf Course and sponsored by The Herald-Mail, was played in 1994. Proceeds from the tournament, along with donations from local businesses, go directly to the memorial fund.

Two years later, the first Tri-State Junior Golf Tournament was held, complete with the first-class stipulations that Mowen insisted on from the outset.

"We had starting times for all of the kids and announce the players," Mowen said. "We want it to be a special thing for them."

The junior golf program hosts tournaments each year at Black Rock, Beaver Creek Country Club and Fountain Head Country Club in Washington County, Waynesboro (Pa.) Country Club and Stonebridge Golf Course in Martinsburg, W.Va.

The tournaments averaged 37 players the first year. In 2005, the 10th year of the junior program, an average of 86 players participated.

"We've attracted 3,500 golfers since we started and given out 53 scholarships," Mowen said. "We've had 10 or 11 players compete in national tournaments. We give every year to the Boys Club and Girls Inc. Last year, we gave to Hagerstown Community College for the first time."

In addition to promoting the game of golf to youngsters, Mowen saw the opportunity to teach other lessons through the game - lessons that the participants could carry with them into their adult years.

"We tell them up front that they're not just there to learn golf," Mowen said. "We want them to become competitors and to learn to respect their fellow competitors."

Part of that lesson is passed along at the post-tournament luncheons. All participants in the junior golf tournaments are required to attend the luncheon, during which the awards for that day's round of golf are presented.

Mowen said attendance is required to pay tribute and respect to the tournament winners.

"It's important that they are there because next time around, they might be the winner," Mowen said.

Q&A

Name - Donald Mowen

Address - Hagerstown

Date of birth - June 16, 1929

Occupation - Retired district manager for RCA.

Most notable achievement - Named Citizen of the Month by the Washington County Commissioners in April 2002.

Your proudest moment - The birth of my two children.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - Probably Gen. David Sarnoff. He was Mr. RCA, developed radio with Marconi and brought us color TV.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - Our company used to preach it: "The customer is always right."

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - To get my golf handicap back down where it belongs.

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