Fairways and greens changed golf pro Tim Herron's life, but not nearly as much as the teachers who helped him get through his days as a dyslexic and chubby kid.
Herron and his wife, Ann, visited a school in Herron's former school district of Wayzata last week to launch the "Lil' Lumpy Leadership Initiative," an educational program to teach kids leadership skills through the game of golf.
Their presentation included a viewing of the Lil' Lumpy cartoon series trailer, starring an animated Herron as himself, alongside quirky and colorful characters with names like Goose Schmitt, Sammy Sandbagger and Freddie Footwedge.
Kids need better role models, Herron said in an interview following the presentation, and need to know that they can become leaders, too.
"Of course, the president's a leader," Herron said. "But you have to remember that your parents are leaders, even the bus driver getting you safely to school is a leader."
In seventh grade, Herron was diagnosed with dyslexia. He credits his special education teachers and Wayzata schools with helping him through some real-life challenges while growing up. "He's been able to show other students who have learning differences how to take that and make it a positive," said Gail Rains, Herron's junior high special ed teacher.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Kimberly Lane Elementary were asked to write essays about leadership. Three were selected to read theirs during Herron's presentation.
"Leaders aren't just anyone," said third-grader Anna Bixby. "When [leaders] play games, they make sure everyone's included, and if they win the game, they don't brag that they're better, and if they lose, they're a good sport. Leaders are also kind and not bossy."
Herron commended Wayzata's schools for instilling leadership values in their students and named Kimberly Lane Elementary as the first school to reach the top of his "Lil' Lumpy Leaderboard," recognizing its effectiveness in teaching leadership skills.
The Lil' Lumpy Leadership Initiative is looking for a title sponsor and partners to continue to spread its message to schools around the country.
To nominate a school for a spot on the Lil' Lumpy Leaderboard, contact John Amann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where 'Lumpy' came from
Herron, 38, comes from a family of golfers -- his father and his grandfather both played in U.S. Opens. He is now a dad himself with three kids of his own; they live in Deephaven. Herron has won more than $1.1 million this year and more than $15 million during his golfing career.
He got his "Lumpy" nickname when he was 16. He arrived for his first day of work at Woodhill Country Club in Wayzata and a couple of guys asked him if he had a nickname. "No," he replied.
By the time the young Herron was done collecting balls from the driving range, the guys had come up with "Lumpy." They asked if he liked the name. "Not really," he said. "Perfect," they replied. "Then it's going to stick."
Herron was able to shed the "Lumpy" moniker for about 10 years, but it leaked out again while he was on a PGA tour.
"It's not a threatening nickname so much as it's the guy next door," he said.
Aimée Blanchette • 612-673-1715