OK, so the chatty, double-knit Sans-a-Belt world of golf doesn't have the glamour and pace of Michael Jordan-style basketball. Then what makes a child take up a sawed-off golf club and dream of holes-in-one? Tobin Jones, who has been golfing more than half of his 13 years, smiles. "I like it when the ball goes airborne," he says, "hitting the ball and watching it go a long way."

"A long way, straight," is the quick addendum given by his coach, Elijah Walker.

"Hitting the golf ball is what I liked," confirms 10-year-old John Moore of his first try at the sport five years ago. His best score is 18 strokes on the five-hole John A. White course for junior golfers.

John admits his schoolmates think golf is boring. But, he says, "the only thing I hate about golf is picking up [the balls]." Concentration is the biggest lesson in golf, says Tobin. "Imagining a line" from the ball to the hole and "not letting the sun or other people bother you" are the keys to a low score, he says.

Eddie Payton, former Detroit Lions running back and current golf coach at Jackson State University, insists that golf is a suitable sport for children. Mr. Payton already is teaching golf to his three-year-old son, and says exposure at an early age is important to developing a passion for a sport and being good at it. He also discounts the notion that golf is more expensive. "What is more expensive, a $180 pair of tennis shoes, warmups, and a diamond stud earring, or a starter set of clubs, a bag, and s hoes that are less than $200?"

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