LIVERMORE -- A Livermore man facing dozens of child-molestation charges was a well-known and highly respected junior golf instructor who coached hundreds of youths to successful careers and college scholarships, stoking fears by police of the possibility of additional victims.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has charged Andrew Nisbet, a director of instruction at Las Positas Golf Course and founder of the GRIP Golf Academy, with 65 felony counts stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by two minor male students. More charges involving a third victim are forthcoming.
The news stunned parents who had enrolled their children in Nisbet's GRIP Junior Golf Academy, a development program for youths hosted at Las Positas. Brentwood resident Kwame Reed signed up two of his sons after hearing word-of-mouth praise from parents of young golfers who were serious about getting attention from college recruiters. His eldest son -- who dreams of being a professional golfer -- started taking lessons from Nisbet four years ago, where he learned the skills to become a college prospect.
"The experience that we've had in the program has been nothing but positive," Reed said. "I'm devastated by the news; it's shocking either way."
Nisbet, 31, founded GRIP in Michigan in 2002. According to the academy's website, the school has helped 3,500 youths improve as golfers and more than 85 juniors obtain college scholarships. After moving to Livermore in 2006, Nisbet continued the program at Las Positas Golf Course.
City officials said that although Nisbet worked at a municipal golf course, he was never a city employee. His employment was handled by the DeBenedetti Golf Club, where police say he was given a full background check.
Las Positas golf director Jeff DeBenedetti had no comment on Nisbet's hiring or his work with the club.
In 2012, Nisbet's youth team won the PGA Junior League Championship. The PGA of America released a statement Wednesday, saying Nisbet has been permanently expelled from the organization.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families impacted by these unspeakable acts," the statement reads. "We are very concerned about this horrific situation and are supporting law enforcement agencies with their investigation."
Nisbet's arrest Saturday came one day before he was to receive the Northern California Section of the PGA's 2013 Junior Golf Leader Award. Chris Thomas, executive director of the Northern California Section, said the organization removed the award from its event.
In addition to his local classes, Nisbet was involved with U.S. Kids Golf, which provides instruction and equipment to young golfers nationwide. In 2012, the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation recognized Nisbet as a "Top 50 Master Teacher." Nisbet also directed the U.S. Kids Golf (USKG) Bay Area Tour, a series of one-day tournaments for children ages 5 to 14. U.S. Kids Golf did not respond to a call for comment.
Reed, who traveled to tournaments throughout the country with the U.S. Kids team, said Nisbet related well to children and had a simple but effective coaching style that instilled success in his students. He saw no cause for concern until he heard the news -- a concern he now shares with fellow parents.
"Golf is just a game in the grand scheme of things," Reed said. "This will be a program that will be missed, but I hope the issues that have been brought forward are handled properly."
Livermore police Officer Steve Goard said the department had received "numerous calls" from concerned parents since Nisbet's arrest. Police, he said, are anticipating that Nisbet's wide access to children, including nationally and internationally, could lead to additional allegations.
"Our gut feeling is that there are more victims out there," Goard said. "With this promise of stardom and of being recognized as a junior golfer, there was a lot of pressure on these kids not to talk, and Mr. Nisbet knew that."
Police will be recommending at least 10 additional charges related to a third alleged victim to the District Attorney's Office, Goard said. Nisbet is set to enter a plea in a Pleasanton courtroom Jan. 15. Nisbet's attorney, Timothy Rien, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.