Now on the First Tee…

Youth program making strides around the region

Published in the July 2015 Issue Published online: Jul 23, 2015 Stories

It’s not just a figurative statement that kids are the future of the game. In the Mountain West and everywhere else, there are at least a few programs that include this language in their mission statements. The core concern, of course, is converting youngsters into lifelong players.

Growing up in small towns in Utah, Montana, Idaho and Washington, our teammates here at MWG can all relate to the challenges of getting kids into golf when there are so many other activities competing for their time and interest.

Sadly, what happens in many small Mountain West towns is that golf passes them by simply because they don’t have the programs or the access to local courses.

In 1997, the LGPA, Masters Tournament, PGA of America, PGA TOUR and USGA formed a partnership with the help of Founding Corporate Partner, Shell Oil, to lead an initiative called The First Tee. This initiative began as a way to bring golf to kids and teens that otherwise would not be exposed to the game and its positive values.

Since that time, The First Tee has steadily grown into a robust youth service organization, impacting, influencing and inspiring more than 9 million young people. Many of them live right here in our region.

Consider the First Tee of Idaho, which began with limited programming in the fall of 2005 at Pierce Park Greens in Boise. In following seasons, it expanded to include programming at Foxtail Golf Course in Meridian, Ridgecrest Golf Club in Nampa, River Birch Golf Course in Star and Falcon Crest Golf Club in Kuna. Indian Lakes Golf Course in Boise and Shadow Valley Golf Course in Boise were added two years ago, and in 2014 programming previously delivered at Ridgecrest Golf Club moved across the street to Centennial Golf Course.

The First Tee of Idaho has delivered The First Tee Life Skills Experience curriculum to 2,660 participants and reached over 14,800 students in the Boise, Meridian, Vallivue and Caldwell school districts through its school outreach program. The First Tee National School Program has been implemented in seven Idaho elementary schools, and its First Tee DRIVE Program has been implemented in three Treasure Valley Boys & Girls Clubs and one YMCA location. Together these two programs have have been introduced to 4,900 young people over the last three years.

Way to go, Idaho!

We’ve also heard great things about the program from our friends up in eastern Washington:

“If you can put your mind to it, you can do it” has become the motto for the Cortez siblings at The First Tee of Yakima. 

All three children were born with Holt-Oram syndrome, also known as hand and heart syndrome, which is a disorder affecting bones in the arms and hands. The Golf Channel aired a heart-felt feature story about their life-long condition and how The First Tee has given them the confidence to overcome obstacles in their life on and off the golf course. 

As examples like this attest, the program is about far more than golf.

What started as a concept to make golf more accessible to young people turned into an opportunity to help young people develop core values and learn life skills that are inherent in the game itself. The First Tee Life Skills Experience, for example, was formulated with the help of academic, sport psychology, youth development and golf experts to proactively teach core values and life skills as part of basic golf instruction at chapters.

Interested in helping out? Visit http://www.thefirsttee.org for details.