The city’s junior golfing champions will be decided this month at an 82-year-old tournament operated by the Exchange Club of East Dallas.

About 300 kids age 7 to 18 compete each year in the Dallas Junior Golf Championship, which organizers say is the city’s longest running tournament. Some of professional golf’s biggest names got their start there.

Lee Trevino played in the tournament as a youth, and Ralph Guldhal and Frank Beard both won it. Justin Leonard’s first tournament victory was in the championship’s pee wee division.

“Kids’ golf is a big deal,” tournament chairman Stan Haddock says. “It’s really the only tournament in town where kids of all ages play together.”

Dallas Times Herald sportswriter Jere Hayes started the tournament in 1924. The Dallas Morning News took over sponsorship when the Herald closed.

Though the newspaper still sponsors the event and the Dallas Park and Recreation Department provides the facilities, the Exchange Club runs it as the group’s sole fund-raising activity.

“It was the size of a project that we could actually handle,” Haddock says of the 50-member club. “We like the history; we like the heritage of the whole thing.”

Boys, divided in to five age groups, and girls in four age groups, play 2- and 3-day tournaments on three city courses. Organizers treat the young players like pros, calling them to the tee and announcing their club affiliations.

“We treat it like it’s the Byron Nelson,” Haddock says. “We make it as a big a deal as possible.”

The winners of the girls’ and boys’ open division receive trophies and a chance to compete in an American Junior Golfing Association event.

(Girls ages 15 to 18 and boys ages 16 to 18 compete in the tournament’s open divisions. Girls age 14 and boys age 15 can opt into the open divisions.)

The Exchange Club of East Dallas, founded in 1948, is a community service organization primarily dedicated to helping children.

The club awards college scholarships to Woodrow Wilson High School students and supports the Child Abuse Prevention Center as well as other children’s programs. It also has adopted 10 East Dallas elementary schools: Bonham, Lee, Lipscomb, Mata, Mount Auburn, Ray, Reilly, Reinhardt, Roberts and Zaragoza.

The schools get Scholastic Readers and supplies. Needy students receive coats and uniforms. Other projects, such as playground equipment, are completed when funding allows.

“We’re a small organization, but the things that we do really can make an impact,” Haddock says. “We try to give them a leg up.”

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