On The Heart Beat
You Gotta Know When to Hug ‘Em
With apologies to The Gambler songwriter Don Schlitz and a full house of singers led by Kenny Rogers this is a story about a professional gambler with a gigantic heart.
Doug Hodges knew when to fold up his gambling days after he parlayed the $100 he came to America with in 1980 into a nest egg allowing him to go on a streak of heartfelt innovation.
Yes, Doug Hodges walked away, but his dealing is far from done.
Today he leads spirited group of staff and volunteers in the SwingPals foundation he started in 2009 that uses golf as a medium with the express purpose of connecting children who face adversity with caring adults.
“SwingPals,” Doug says “was built on a principal that by developing a sense of safety and confidence in their abilities, students will be able to live healthier and happier lives.”
“To do this, our programming provides opportunities for students to improve their ability to emotionally self-regulate and build self-awareness through learning an entirely new sport,” he adds.
What Doug doesn’t easily tell us is how he hid his emotions in the high energy world of risk takers that he entered as an errand running, coffee getting peon among wheeler-dealer commodities traders.
When a benefactor enabled Doug’s trading career to flower, it did and from the floor of New York Mercantile Exchange where he gambled his own money on crude oil futures.
“I actually only bought and sold for myself and never for a client,” he says, describing his career as professional gambling.
Along about the time “when sitting at that table was done and there was time enough for counting,” Doug Hodges found an outlet for his good fortune and began to share it with Big Brothers and Sisters of America.
Big Brothers became the precursor to SwingPals as Doug Hodges started betting on a different kind of futures—those of children in high risk situations.
He and the SwingPals staff and volunteers tilt the odds in the kids favor by reaching out to them—even bussing them to and from home and school—to the golf course where safe play is the order of the day.
Even the COVID crisis could not curtail SwingPals. Switching gears while the virus peaked, SwingPals delivered nearly a ton of food to 73 enrolled families each week. Now, SwingPals is readying itself to continue where it left off when the pandemic hit.
As a new golf seasons looms SwingPals students, parents, teachers, staff and volunteers are full of anticipation thanks to the big risks and bigger heart of a self-styled professional gambler.
Speaking of futures, is there a SwingPals in yours?