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Kolton Cooper will play golf at Roanoke College, thanks to the $20,000 Don Holliday grant.
The Roanoke Times | File 2010
Franklin County golfer Kolton Cooper, a First Tee of the Roanoke Valley ‘poster boy’, has helped instruct kids in the program.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Kolton Cooper likes to tell people that he’s just a regular old teenager from the hills of Franklin County.
Well, the self-described country boy found a jackpot Tuesday morning in the main ballroom of Roanoke Country Club.
Cooper, a 17-year-old senior at Franklin County High, was named the recipient of the prestigious $20,000 Don Holliday Memorial Scholarship, the largest golf-related grant awarded in southwest Virginia.
Cooper will use the prize to defray some of the cost of his tuition at Roanoke College, where he hopes to become a major contributor on the school’s golf team.
“This is a dream come true because I can attend Roanoke like I always wanted, and it just starts the success on the road of my college career,” Cooper said.
“It’s incredibly big for me. I’ve always wanted to play where I went, and Roanoke was one of the schools that has been looking at me. But they were out of my range because of the price. But with this, I can finally do that.”
Cooper’s resume included all the goods — strong academics (4.07 GPA), a voluminous list of volunteer community service deeds, including leading and instructing kids at The First Tee of Roanoke Valley. Mary Beth McGirr, director of programming and instruction, has watched Cooper hone his golf skills and grow up and mature the past 6 1⁄2 years.
“Kolton has turned into our ‘poster boy’ at The First Tee,” McGirr said. “He’s gone from a 25-handicapper to a 1-handicapper. He was a struggling student, and now he’s getting ready to graduate from high school with honors.
“He’s had some life-changing opportunities. I think this scholarship gives him a future. He’s an only child in a single-parent family and didn’t want to go far away so I think Roanoke College will be a perfect fit.”
Cooper, a first-team All-Northwest Region performer last fall, was accompanied Tuesday with a large throng of family members and friends. The group didn’t include his father, who hasn’t been in his life since he was 11.
“I haven’t had anything to do with him,” Cooper said. “The First Tee has been a big help in filling that void.
“What has The First Tee done for me? It’s insane. It’s been a life-changer for me. Every one of my dreams have come true, thanks to Mary Beth McGirr of The First Tee, all the workers there and the kids that helped me see where I started from. And I wanted to help them like The First Tee has helped me.”
Cooper’s mother, Myrandi, was wearing a face glowing like bright sunlight following the ceremony.
“This is a dream come true, it really is,” said the single mom who is an office worker for a feed company in Franklin County. “I’m one proud mama! Now I can stop stressing, he can stop stressing. This is wonderful!”
Mom no longer has any qualms about what the boy does with a golf stick at their home in Hardy.
“I can’t keep him away from a golf club,” Myrandi said. “He’s constantly swinging in my backyard, tearing the yard up, but he loves it. He goes inside when it’s dark and he tears my living room up hitting with a golf club.
“… He can’t get enough of it. Kolton has got the passion, the heart, everything for golf.”
Now he’s got the ticket to attend college, plus play a lot more golf.
Cooper, is the 27th high school student to land the prestigious award that has teed up more than $300,000 in scholarship money in the past 27 years.
The scholarship was established in 1986 to honor the memory of the late Don Holliday, a district sales manager of the old Piedmont Airlines that served Roanoke. All of the proceeds for the scholarship are generated from the Don Holliday Memorial golf tournament, a captain’s choice event that’s being held June 22 at RCC.
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