From Tragedy Comes Inspiration For Hereford

By Ivan McDowell
Updated: December 12, 2008

ALABAMA — 13-year old Xavier Hereford started playing golf when he was just five and immediately fell in love with the sport. Understanding the history of the sport, especially for African-Americans, didn’t deter him from continuing to follow his dream.

Taking early inspiration from golf legends like Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder, Calvin Peete and the greatest in the annals of the sport, Tiger Woods, Hereford has embarked on a journey to become the next prodigy on the links.

“It’s really amazing where we’ve come in the sport of golf,” stated the impressive Hereford. “From only being allowed to caddy to white golfers to playing and winning tournaments.”

“It’s something that’s truly inspiring to me.”

Though Hereford says he owes his first introduction to the sport to seeing Woods perform on the greens, it was circumstances a little closer to home that both motivated him to pursue his dreams of becoming a tour professional.

Since 2003, Hereford has lost both of his grandparents and his uncle and for a short time thought about giving up the sport that he loves. That’s when golf became more than a sport to the teenager. He channeled his pain and sorrow to the course.

Suddenly, golf became therapeutic. “I would see Xavier sad or getting down and I would say, “hey let’s go golfing and talk about what you’re feeling,” says Xavier’s mother, Tasha Hereford.

Whatever the impetus used by Hereford he has clearly parlayed it into a successful endeavor; one in which one day could make him a lot of money. Hereford will be featured on a one-hour television special on the Golf Channel this Tuesday (December 16) at 6 p.m. as part of their tribute to The First Tee.

The program will showcase in-depth stories from various chapters (The First Tee of Huntsville) around the world. Obviously Xavier must be pretty good if he’s going to be highlighted on television.

Well, I’d say making varsity high school golf team at age 12 is pretty good. Maybe his handicap of 6.5 impresses you. Or his astonishing play at this spring’s Mutual of Omaha Drive, Chip and Putt Competition where he had the longest drive of the event at 267 yards.

In fact, Hereford placed third in a Madison County Round Up for high schools.

Yeah, I think the kid is pretty good.

“I’m just loving the game right now. Eventually I’d like to make a career out of it,” continued Xavier, who attends Central Middle School in Madison County, Alabama.

Xavier’s “caddy in training”, mom Tasha, says it was somewhat a struggle early on for her son to be respected, but he persevered and showed everyone what he could do. She says she told him to “play his game” and that he “belonged there” and her son then began to shine.

“Yeah, we’re going to be the first mother-son team in golf.”

Hereford has also used his high skill set to teach the younger aspiring golfers, whom he lent his considerable knowledge during his recent stint at the First Tee.

Xavier’s caring and patience stimulated the youth to follow in his growing footsteps. Golfing year round has enabled Hereford to not only hone his skills but give back to the community through the First Tee.

The First Tee of Huntsville has partnered with the Tennessee Valley Jazz Society-Huntsville, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose purpose is “to sponsor and encourage artistic, sporting, health, and educational activities in the Tennessee Valley.

Since its beginning in 2005, The First Tee of Huntsville has introduced the game of golf and its values to more than 1,500 children in the Tennessee Valley. The First Tee of Huntsville has established collaborations with Hampton Cove’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail; Brahan Spring Recreation Center, Alabama A&M University’s Telecommunication Center; local school systems; and other community-based youth serving organizations.

The First Tee ( is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in St. Augustine, FL at World Golf Village, home of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Its mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.

Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has introduced the game of golf and its values to more than 2.2 million participants in 48 states and four international locations — Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore.

The Founding Partners of The First Tee are the Augusta National Golf Club, LPGA, PGA of America, PGA TOUR and USGA. Former President George Bush serves as honorary chairman.

“One of my goals for next year is to become the first 13-year old to win the U.S. Amateur Championships.”

I have no doubt that Xavier Hereford will succeed in the sport of golf.

He is already a winner, so the sky’s the limit.