Wesley Chapel Driving Range is for the Golfers, Love of the Game

Teaching the game to junior golfers is a top priority at Pasadena HillsWESLEY CHAPEL - Fred Bender never had a lot of money growing up.

It didn't bother him though, nor did it stop him from learning the game of golf. His father made sure he and his siblings found a way to hit the links, even if it meant playing on courses that were closed during the winter.

"That's all my family could afford," the PGA instructor said.

Bender, along with his business and golf partner, Tim Polce, keep all this in mind when running their driving range in Wesley Chapel.

Pasadena Hills Golf Driving Range, tucked away on a back road of Pasco County, caters not only to every golfer, but Bender goes out of his way to make sure local youth goflers have a place to learn the ins and outs of golf, inexpensively, or even, for free.

"I also couldn't afford to take lessons, so everything I learned was from (my dad), but as he got older, he would teach kids golf for free, which was something I wanted to do as well," Bender said. "I eventually see (Pasadena Hills) being a pretty good kids' place where they come to learn the game and I think we can fill a pipeline to the local high schools.

Pasadena Hills

"I don't want (the kids not being able to afford lessons) to keep them from learning golf and enjoying it and taking it up," Bender added. "I don't want them to not be able to learn, so I want to provide a place where they are able to learn how to play."

Bender and Polce met in the 90s working at another range in Miami, but as time went on, it ended up closing. The two friends wanted to have their own place, that way they wouldn't have to worry about being out of a job, being able to just focus on golf. So they formed their own ideas for what they wanted at the range, and now, it's finally coming to fruition.

Bender and Polce live on the grounds, with Bender's house just 50 yards from the restaurant they are still constructing and plan to open early 2010. There will be a small eating area, a kitchen, then the two are near finishing a synthetic practice putting green that they want to cover with an overhang and make an area where little kids can hang out.

Pasadena includes a chipping area and a synthetic tee boxes that are about 100 yards long, which was easy for them to build since the two also run Gopher Birdie, a synthetic putting green surface business.
That's how they supplement the costs of running Pasadena Hills. However, Polce and Bender nearly sold the place, but didn't like the offer. Though a bit of sentimental value helped them keep it.

"I think both of us want to see it through," Bender said.

With the restaurant nearly complete, golfers are already taking advantage of the range during the week and especially on the weekends. As for helping out junior golf, Bender's already coached kids from Pasco, Wesley Chapel and Zephryhills High Schools, including senior Sarah Baniszewski who received a half scholarship from a college in North Carolina.

But that is one of Bender's main goals: to spread his knowledge of golf, so younger generations keep the game alive.

"I always say to them, I'll be glad to help them and do what I can as long as they're serious about getting better, about playing. If they're not serious, don't waste my time because I want kids to take the game seriously and learn it," Bender said. "They're the future of the game."

Pasadena Hills Golf Driving Range is located at Handcart Road and Jesse Daniel Drive in Wesley Chapel and Fred Bender can be reached at (813) 857-5430. For more information, log onto http://www.pasadenahillsgolf.com.

Mike Camunas can be reached at mike.camunas@gmail.com.

 

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