OCONOMOWOC -- Chuck Wood has made a living teaching the game of golf -- but the greatest lessons he's learned and given have been free.
"I can still, at my age, get up and come to the golf course at dawn and leave at dark and not feel like I worked an hour," Wood said.
Wood, head golf professional at the Oconomowoc Golf Club will tell you he's blessed.
"You look around here -- the beautiful scenery, the wildlife -- it's like a wildlife refuge. The people are great and it's a tremendous place to do my craft," Wood said.
As a youngster, Wood spent all day playing the game of golf. He also hunted golf balls to make a few bucks.
"I knew that if I could get the Lee Trevino Faultless Golf Ball, I could make $2.50. That was a Stewart sandwich, a Coke and a bag of beer nuts and life didn't get any better," Wood said.
Today, Wood helps make life better for others -- by introducing fifth graders through eighth graders (many who don't have the advantages that others have) to the game he loves.
"It's amazing to watch the smiles when they fumble around with the club at first, and then all of a sudden, they get a little feel for it. Then it's the quest for a contact, and then when the ball gets airborne, it's sheer delight. To see that is very rewarding for me. But you can see the jubilation and the satisfaction in the eyes and the smiles of the kids," Wood said.
Of course, the lessons Wood gives wouldn't be possible without golf equipment -- much of which is donated by the members at Oconomowoc Golf Club.
"When you explain what you're doing and mention that they may have to clean out the garage or the basement, it's amazing how many clubs flow in. I was shocked," Wood said.
Wood makes good use of his members' kind donations.
"Last winter, we were in seven different schools and as a part of that, it's my goal to equip those schools, so we've done club drives here and I think we've brought in probably a thousand clubs. We make up packages so that when I leave the school, they've still got the equipment and a little bit of knowledge to carry forth the ideas,"
"He incorporates the core values of life that go hand-in-hand with the game of golf," Dan Green said.
Green is a former Milwaukee Wave soccer player and the athletic director at Stone Bank Elementary School in Oconomowoc. He thinks what Wood does for his physical education students is well above par.
"To see their faces light up is priceless to me," Green said.
Wood and Green have seen firsthand what golf can do to improve one's self-esteem.
Wood remembers a fifth-grade girl who was being picked on by rude classmates.
"Started hitting some shots and before you know it the gym is completely quiet. And then there's this bang off the scoreboard. There was this girl, shy and quiet, ripping shots off the scoreboard and in that instant, she wasn't the one who was picked on. It was like 'man, did you see her hit the golf ball?'" Wood said.
Wood gets a lot of thank yous -- from the members at the Oconomowoc Golf Club to the youngsters he teaches in the schools.
In a sense, he's come full circle, from the kid who hunted golf balls to the adult who derives so much joy from teaching.
In addition to all his golf duties, Wood has also coached basketball for many years. He says there is no cost to the schools for the golf program.