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From the Bench: Back Home and on Links, Gervais Earns International Golf Honor for Work with Youth

By Jeff Toquinto on January 14, 2018 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

I’m not a golfer. In fact, I’ve only golfed one hole when I was in my teens at Lake Floyd. After driving a dozen balls into a little creek area, my time on the links began and ended in the same afternoon.
 
That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the passion my friends and others have for the game. For many it’s a love they can’t shake. And in most cases, having a lifetime activity that keeps you outside and enjoying things isn’t a bad thing at all.
 
Then there’s the case of Bridgeport’s Michael Gervais. He certainly falls under the category of loving the sport to the point he’d probably admit it’s a healthy addiction. He falls under the category of someone who will likely be playing the game for life.
 
However, Gervais falls under two additional categories. One several have done and continue to do. The other, well, he’s become part of a rarified group.
 
Gervais isn’t blazing new ground when he tells you he is currently in the midst of hoping to make a career out of golf. He spends most of his time as the assistant golf professional at the Bridgeport Country Club and prior to that he worked at the Pete Dye Club.
 
To know just how serious the 2006 graduate of Bridgeport High School is, there’s a good chance he’ll be golfing when you read this. And, no, he’s not out on some soggy or frozen course here in West Virginia. Right now, Gervais is spending the cold weather months down south in the warm weather state of Florida where he’s working at Streamsong Resorts in Bowling Green, Fla. He’ll be back to the Mountain State in March looking to continue his work at the Country Club with the goal of making his life’s work on the golf courses.
 
While not many opt to go that course, chances are good you probably know someone that has done just that. What Gervais recently accomplished, however, is indeed rare.
 
Gervais has been named to U.S. Kids Golf’s annual list of Top 50 Kids Teachers. The honor recognizes the world’s most outstanding youth golf instructors, and Gervais is part of a select group that earned Top 50 accolades among nearly 350 applicants.
 
That’s correct – the world’s most outstanding instructors. The 50 winners is not a list of one individual from every state. Rather, it’s a list comprising individuals from 26 states and five countries outside of the United States (Austria, England, Honduras, Italy, and Northern Ireland).
 
Not surprisingly, considering the outfit that gave the award, Gervais is being honored for his work as an instructor of youth.
 
“I was extremely honored to receive the award because I enjoy working with kids to enhance their love of the sport,” said the 29-year-old Gervais. “My background goes way back to junior golf so I know how important it is to help kids develop their game.”
 
This year, which was his first at BCC, saw him take an active role with clinics and camps to get kids involved in the game. He said there were 65 kids that participated, which was a step up in numbers.
 
“We’re going to do more to promote youth golfing for this coming year and I’d love to get more than 100 kids involved,” said Gervais. “Maybe word of this award will help on that end.”
 
It probably won’t hurt. Gervais knows all about the sport when his father – also Michael – would take him to the driving range when he was just able to walk. Once he started playing shortly thereafter he was hooked.
 
“It’s kind of odd that at an early age I knew I wanted to be involved in golf in some way as a profession,” said Gervais.
 
Golf actually helped him get a degree. He was part of Bridgeport’s 2002 state championship golf team his sophomore year, which was the last for former Coach Richard Bailey. Yet all four years, the first two with Bailey and the next two with current Coach Fred Wilhelm, saw the Tribe make it to the state tournament every single year.
 
“That’s where I became 100 percent hooked and that’s why I do what I do today,” said Gervais. “The whole experience was enjoyable, and winning just added to it. There was nothing better in high school than going out to play.”
 
The play of Gervais was good enough to earn him a scholarship to West Virginia Wesleyan. He played golf there for four years and in 2010 he graduated with a degree in Business Administration.
 
Shortly after leaving WVWC, he hit the golf circuit before returning to Bridgeport. He worked at golf courses in places such as Louisville and Naples, Fla. Four years ago he started his stint at Pete Dye before moving on to the Bridgeport Country Club.
 
“I’m looking to stay in this area. I’ve enjoyed being back home and still seeing people all the time that I haven’t seen for quite a while and I’ve been back for several years now,” said Gervais.
 
The only thing his profession doesn’t allow him to do is play the game all day, every day that he wouldn’t mind doing. Still, he’s on the greens quite a bit.
 
“You never get to play as much as you would like, but I try to play two to three times a week with the members and get in 10 or more tournaments a year … I still play a good bit,” he said.
 
The payback, he said, is seeing youngsters light up when they’re learning the game. He knows when he was one of those kids who are “hooked” on the game like he was.
 
“It’s not that hard to identify,” said Gervais, who admits he never had an actual golf lesson until he was way into the game and started college. “You can tell the kids that are into and want to learn because they’re the ones asking questions and dragging their parents to the course, which is exactly what I did.
 
“My first goal is to make it fun and that’s the number one thing I emphasize with every kid and every age level,” he continued. “Eventually, you add the competitive element to get the juices flowing, but it’s always got to have a component of fun. When they get that all figured out then that’s when I really like to get with them one on one. I hope I can make a difference.”
 
Apparently, U.S. Kids Golf believes he is making a difference in much the same way when he teamed up with Justin Caroli, Zach Francis and Benji Riley on their state tournament run more than a decade ago.
 
“The organization is one of the leading youth golf groups in the world,” said Gervais. “The design equipment for kids, run tournaments and local tours and do events all over the world and certify coaches, which I am through them.”
 
Even though he’s certified, that didn’t land him the honor. Instead, Gervais said he was nominated by a former employer and then answered questions about the programs he offered and his experience.
 
“It was actually easy to talk about what we’ve done here and my own experiences,” said Gervais. “I’m proud of it and hope to help others along the way.”
 
I believe that. And even if I didn’t, the president of U.S. Kids Golf would let me know I’m wrong.
 
“These coaches are honored as more than instructors,” explained Dan Van Horn, the President and Founder of U.S. Kids Golf. “They create outstanding opportunities for young golfers to learn in a fun and rewarding environment that instills a love for the game and engages the entire family.  Their ability to connect with students and fully engage them in the learning process sets them apart.”  
 
Editor's Note: Top and bottom photos show Michael Gervais working with youngsters on the game of golf. Second and third photos show Gervais during his high school days at Bridgeport High. Prep photos courtesy of Mrs. Alice Rowe and the BHS Journalism Department.


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