The First Tee

The First TeeHow were you introduced to golf? Maybe it was your father or another close relative. Or a friend who needed a partner. Maybe you didn’t get the “bug” until a business associate or a charity outing got you involved. Likely somebody nudged you toward the game that has become so much more than just recreation, but a microcosm of life.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the The First Tee Program, which has already introduced the game, and its values, to more than 1.5 million young people in its first decade. What has set The First Tee apart from any other program is its Life Skills Experience component, that not only teaches golf to newcomers, but also nine “core values” that many of us learned through playing the game that has enriched our lives.

Honesty. Integrity. Sportsmanship. Respect. Confidence. Responsibility. Perseverance. Courtesy. Judgment.

The First TeeNine character traits that are generally revealed every time we play the game, or interact with anyone we come across every day. Who wouldn’t want those nine core values taught to as many young people today as possible?

A surprising misconception about The First Tee is that it is primarily a program for minority, inner-city or disadvantaged youth. While resources have been targeted at those demographics, The First Tee is for everyone, many chapters even encouraging adults to accompany their teenage participants. The program has expanded above and beyond the over 200 independent chapters in 47 states and five foreign countries.

Like the game itself, The First Tee cuts across all lines of division- class, race, cultural, religious and gender. The golf ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it, and the people hitting are just people, sharing a common passion for the game—and those nine core values.

The First TeeThe First Tee’s been around long enough to have a proven track record now as well. Independent university research studies show that The First Tee’s programs have positively changed young people’s attitudes and behaviors, and a study just last year by the University of Virginia shows retention of those life skills over time and an ability to transfer those character traits to relationships in family, school, jobs and careers. In other words, The First Tee is making more than just better golfers, it’s making better people.

One of the beauties of The First Tee is that each participant can make of the program what they want, some are involved only in the organized activities, some come out and practice, play and learn nearly every day. Another bit of First Tee magic as the program enters its second decade is that, after 10 years, it is beginning to perpetuate itself. The young people who joined the program in its infancy are not only role models for the “next” generation of First Tee participants, they come back to act as mentors.

One of the carrots held out for First Tee members is the possibility to experience the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach each Labor Day weekend, when a First Tee player aged 14-18 is paired with a Champions Tour star in an official Tour event. And they aren’t just for the 78 best golfers in the First Tee program, but for those who’ve excelled in the “life skills” area as well.

The First TeeOnce kids get involved with The First Tee, their likelihood of taking a path through higher education increases exponentially. Thirty colleges and universities throughout the country have already partnered with The First Tee for merit-based scholarships. Over 122 First Tee Scholars are attending college thanks, in part, to participation with The First Tee, the inaugural class of those Scholars graduating this spring.

The First Tee legacy is secure, but its continued growth and success depends on YOUR involvement. Besides getting your own children involved, your local chapter could obviously use your financial support, but they’d appreciate your time and talent as much as your treasure. Whether it be helping identify new groups to expand the reach of the program, or by volunteering to help mentor young participants (there’s even a program to teach you to teach), or in any number of other ways, you can reveal the character traits you’ve identified through the game of golf by becoming involved with your local First Tee program. Do you matter? 94% of adult volunteers surveyed say their own lives were impacted by their First Tee experience.

For more information on the First Tee, or ways to contact a program in your area, visit www.thefirsttee.org.

The First Tee of Clearwater

The First Tee of ClearwaterCreated in 2004 in partnership with the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation, The First Tee of Clearwater has access to the 18-hole layout at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club on McMullan Booth Road. The facility is also home to a privately-supported public school with additional classroom space for after-school and summer programs.

Beginning with just 24 participants in 2005, the First Tee of Clearwater now has over 400 participants in its programs ranging from after-school, home-school, Saturday and summer camp programs to a pilot offering with the fourth and fifth graders at Modesta Robbins Partnership School. In 2008, The First Tee of Clearwater will be introducing a Target Program into area elementary schools.

One of the participants, 16-year-old Evan Barlow of Lakeside Christian High School, has progressed through the First Tee Life Skills program since its inception and has traveled to The First Tee’s National Leadership program at Kansas State University. Besides his continuing education in the program, he’s donated hundreds of hours as a volunteer and a teen mentor. A Bright Futures Scholar and member of the National Honor Society, Evan hopes to study engineering at Le Tourneau University in Longview, TX.

For more information on becoming involved in The First Tee of Clearwater, visit www.thefirstteeclearwater.org or call
(727) 742-7307.

The First Tee of St. Petersburg

Established in early 2005, The First Tee of St. Petersburg is headquartered at Twin Brooks Golf Course on 22nd Avenue South, with other area golf courses, including Mangrove Bay and Cypress Links, participating. Among those on the First Tee’s board of directors is rising LPGA star Brittany Lincicome, who played her first rounds at Twin Brooks. In just two-plus years, the chapter has grown to over 1,000 young people participating in a number of programs that range from half-day and full-day summer camps to after-school and weekend clinics, junior leagues, adult/junior leagues and tournaments, Academy Prep, outreach programming and the Special Olympics.
Two recent success stories are Michael Holmes and Elliot Burke, high schoolers who were selected to attend The First Tee’s National Academy at Kansas State University last summer, combining The First Tee’s Life Skills curriculum and K-State’s Leadership Studies Program. Holmes is an Honor Roll Junior at Shorecrest Prep School with a love for architecture and music, though he’s already proven himself quite a teacher, volunteering over 500 hours during the summer of 2005 mentoring younger participants. The most prominent Life Skill he’s learned, and taught, is “Stop. Think. Anticipate. Respond”, the acronym STAR, saying it helps him on the golf course, and off.

Burke is a high school sophomore with wide-ranging passions for other outdoor activities who hopes to pursue a career in engineering or architecture who says the goal-setting component has been his most valued Life Skill-learned, something that has obviously helped him on and off the golf course.

For more on The First Tee of St. Petersburg, visit www.thefirstteestpetersburg.org or call (727) 551-3300.

 

 

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