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At The Byron Nelson Golf Championship, Kids Play Caddie

Golfers at the 47th annual HP Byron Nelson Championship teed off Thursday in Irving. Proceeds from the tournament benefit an Oak Cliff school for low-income children. Some of those students got to play caddie this week.

Hedy Rojas is only 11, but she’s already gotten to meet some of the world’s top golfers. On Wednesday, she even got to be a caddie for the day. Well, sort of.

“I got to try to get the bag on, but it was really heavy, and I can see how the caddie might feel if they have to hold that every day,” Rojas said. “They have to be very strong.”

Rojas and more than two dozen other fifth graders from Momentous Institute were paired up with some of the golfers in town for the Byron Nelson tournament. The organization includes a school for kids age three to fifth grade, as well as counseling programs.

“I really learned how golf players really have to be into it and have to believe that they can make it in the hole, and that they have to be really focused to try to make their goal,” Rojas said.

Between holes, students peppered the golfers with questions and some, like Charles Howell III, talked about life lessons learned on the course.

“Know that a lot of times you deal with a varying degree of disappointment every day,” Howell said. “So if you know that’s already built in, then I think it’s a bit easier to have a bit persistence and grit as you say.”

Rojas’ classmate, Carlos Diaz, was curious how exactly Howell gets through those tough times.

“When you’re frustrated, do you breath?” Diaz asked him.

“Well, I try to slow down and, specifically on the golf course, I try to walk slower,” Howell said. “But if you get frustrated at yourself for being frustrated, then it becomes a problem.”

Still, he added, frustration can be a good thing if you learn from it.

Kate Whidden, director of leadership and governance at Momentous Institute, said the experience helps the kids practice their social skills. Every year, the fifth graders serve as caddies, while younger kids help out with other tournament activities. On Thursday and Friday, some kids are working as student reporters interviewing players and blogging about the event. Other kids participated in the opening ceremonies.

“It’s wonderful to be smart and to be good at reading, writing and arithmetic,” she said. “But it’s also great to be good at problem solving, to be great at forming relationships with your peers and your teachers. Communications, grit, persistence, resilience.”

The Nelson runs through Sunday. If you go, you might also see some slightly older kids who are in the spotlight – like 20-year-old Dallas native and golf phenom Jordan Spieth, and 17-year-old Highland Park senior Scottie Scheffler.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.