Honors his brother
Out of the rough, and into their hearts
Silberman’s initiative creates opportunities
As golfers know, the game isn’t always fairways and greens and two-putt pars, with the occasional birdie thrown in. Instead, golf is full of hazards, bad breaks, and mis-hits. Tough lies are everywhere. When faced with one, how well do we recover?
Brian Silberman came up with an inspirational answer. Dealt one of life’s most painful blows when his older brother died two years ago, the teenager from Sharon swung back, creating a nonprofit organization that serves dual purposes: keeping Scott Silberman’s memory alive, and introducing golf to middle school students from Brockton who’ve never had the opportunity to play.
It took a tragic death, the creativity of a 15-year-old, and the fateful partnership with a golf-crazed principal, but Out of the Rough is not only up and running, it’s flourishing. So far, more than $10,000 has been raised. Demand from students was so strong and the 12 spots in this year’s program filled up so quickly that nearly two dozen were turned away. Days after his final class as a senior at Sharon High School, Silberman will oversee Out of the Rough’s second season-ending tournament tomorrow at Olde Scotland Links in Bridgewater.
“For me personally, it’s been a sort of closure, which is what I originally sought out for it to be,’’ Silberman said. “Knowing that I’ve done something to honor my brother, it feels good. But it feels just as good to help others.’’
Three years separated the Silberman brothers, but not much else did. They played golf together, went on bike rides, and always looked forward to family vacations, when the brothers’ bond would noticeably strengthen. When Scott Silberman died during his freshman year at the University of Arizona, his little brother took the news hard. Months later, during one of those family vacations, an idea began to take shape.
“I thought, ‘Let’s do something with golf, because that’s something that we did together, and that’s something that can remind me of him,’ ’’ Silberman said. “Scott was very, very well-liked, he had so many social relationships with people, so I wanted to do something for other people and not just for me.
“My brother died of a drug overdose, and I wanted the charity to be beneficial. Out of the Rough takes kids out of a rough environment for a little bit of time and teaches them a game of ethics and moral responsibility that they can hopefully, maybe put back into their own lives.’’
He didn’t need to sell his parents on the concept, or the name.
“The idea was . . . what if you get into a bad spot, do you know how to get out?’’ Karen Silberman said. “Golf is a game where if you get your ball into big trouble, you’re still responsible for it but the game’s not over. It’s your ball, turn your attention to it, go into the rough, and get it out of the rough.’’
So Silberman drafted a proposal, and a family friend who was a partner at Mintz Levin said that not only would he help, but the law firm would donate $15,000 worth of pro bono legal work. Soon, Out of the Rough was an official, registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with Silberman as its director.
When he sent letters out soliciting sponsorship donations, the reaction was swift: More than 150 contributions came in, ranging from $15 to $400. That was just monetary; used golf clubs, bags, gloves, shoes, balls, and other equipment has also been donated.
To find students that the program would work with, Silberman suggested a middle school in Brockton. Karen Silberman called information, and was told there were eight. Randomly picking one, she called South Middle School, whose principal, Kevin Karo, works in an office filled with golf pictures and memorabilia. Immediately, he was interested.
“I said yes right away. What a great way to teach the kids about personal responsibility and integrity,’’ Karo said. “There are so many valuable life lessons that can be taught out on the golf course.
“Some of these kids, Brockton’s all they know. You take them to a place like Bridgewater and it’s going to be quiet, it’s a completely different world that a lot of them have never been exposed to. It’s good for everybody.’’
It’s been a group effort. Silberman and some of his Sharon High golf teammates met with former LPGA Tour player Michelle Bell, who prepped them on the fundamentals of the golf swing and how to teach it. Jay’s Golf Range in West Bridgewater has served as the primary teaching facility, with a 13-passenger van transporting the students back and forth from South Middle School. Another volunteer makes weekly treats.
It takes about $200 each week for the group to spend 90 minutes at the driving range, with the season-ending, nine-hole event costing roughly $500, so the initial $10,000 solicited might last a while. Silberman, who will attend Tulane University in the fall, hopes the program continues, even if he can’t be there; underclassmen who have helped the first two years have already expressed interest in carrying it on.
For now, after weeks of learning a new game, with weird rules and strange equipment and lots of etiquette, it’s time for this year’s class to hit the golf course for the very first time, an opportunity spawned by the memory of someone they never even met.
“To see the look on these kids’ faces, that’s the best part of the whole thing,’’ Karo said. “When they finally put everything together, when they hit the driver and it goes far and it goes straight and just to see that face light up, it’s priceless.’’
Said Karen Silberman: “Last year I think the kids knew it was in Scott’s memory. This year I don’t know if Brian even told them. This is for him. He knows that there are going to be a bunch of kids who would never have had a chance to get out there, and now they can’t wait for Fridays.
“Both my husband [Don] and I come home after that hour and a half, and there’s just a sense of fulfillment. It’s bittersweet, obviously. Not a minute goes by that we don’t miss Scott, but there’s something about watching these kids learning in his memory. Whether they know it or not, we know it. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.’’