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story.lead_photo.caption Levi Elder (right) and his Wanted Golf members and coaches before the 4-man fundraising tournament at Oak Hills Golf Course Saturday morning. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

Levi Elder, head golf coach at Capital City High School, had a dream of starting a program to help young golfers find success in life through golf.

About a month after telling his wife, Hannah, about the idea, a family friend of theirs, Jay Carroll, asked if they were interested in starting a golf division through his youth sports program, The Young Wanted.

Four months later, they started tryouts for Wanted Golf.

"It was kind of a whirlwind that started as kind of a fluke idea and then quickly turned into a really awesome, progressing program," Levi said.

Levi and Hannah officially founded Wanted Golf this year. Wanted Golf is a nonprofit junior golf program in Mid-Missouri that uses golf to instill essential core values into the young golfers to promote success.

Rather than treating golf as an individual sport, Wanted Golf acts as a team, allowing the young golfers to build relationships and learn teamwork and leadership skills, Levi said.

Story continues below video.

"Our goal was to shape our athletes through positive character traits, team building, health and nutrition, and personal golf skills," Levi said. "So far, we have had outstanding success in 2020 despite the current world state."

Wanted Golf hosted a four-man scramble golf tournament fundraiser Saturday at Oak Hills Golf Center. Participation was $400 per team, and 30 teams competed.

Currently, Wanted Golf only has access to one golf course. The goal is to raise money for access to new golf courses, higher level tournaments, better equipment and apparel, better health and fitness consultants, and less financial pressure on parents, Levi said.

Another goal is to get more sponsors and scholarship opportunities for children whose families can't afford the program.

Levi said he wants to thank the Carroll family and all of Wanted Golf's sponsors, especially their first and main sponsor, Arris' Pizza.

"They were the first sponsor that came up to us back in January before we even had anything to show," he said. "They literally just heard me out about what I was trying to do for kids. I do think that deserves some great recognition."

Wanted Golf is for children younger than 18, and it currently includes 25 golfers. There is a group for experienced golfers who compete in tournaments and a developmental group for beginners.

Levi said he believes the family aspect is important, so family members can watch practices and tournaments. Even if the parent isn't a golfer, Levi said, it is important for them to be a part of it so they can be included in that part of their child's life.

"The beauty of golf is you get to do it with friends and family," he said.

Ayden Howard, 13, began competing in golf tournaments about two years ago after his dad, Blake Howard, introduced him to the sport.

"I was looking for a coach for him, and we heard about the program, so we signed up," Blake said. "It's made a huge difference in his game; he's much more consistent now."

Blake said while it can be stressful watching Ayden compete, it's worth it to see his son excel.

"When they're playing great, boy is it fun to watch the kids play in these tournaments," he said. "It's so impressive, because they are really good for their age. It's very fun to watch."

To learn more about Wanted Golf, visit wantedgolf.com.

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