2000: Business - First Tee program moves to the next level with Life Skills for young golfers
With the development of courses for juniors well under way, The First Tee is looking to do something far more ambitious.
The national initiative, launched three years ago with hopes of giving kids a place to play, now wants to do more than nurture young golfers.
It wants to help raise better citizens.
The far-reaching goal will take top-billing at the third annual The First Tee National Association Meeting Nov.15-17 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. The event also will serve as a prelude to a major industry summit, Golf 20/20, designed to address the host of issues facing the game’s future. At The First Tee meeting, the focus will be on life skills: a custom-made curriculum to teach children, via golf, critical skills such as goal-setting and healthy lifestyle management.
“Essentially it’s not a refocus . . . It’s an evolution,” said Joe Louis Barrow Jr., the executive director of The First Tee and senior vice president of the World Golf Foundation, which oversees The First Tee. “In Phase 1, clearly the tactic was developing golf facilities and focusing on junior golfers. . . . Now that we’ve met that goal and with the magnitude of assets we created, we’re looking at the number of kids we can impact.”
The Phase 1 goal was 100 facilities by the end of 2000. On Aug. 27, The First Tee announced it had 129 facilities either open or in some form of development in 38 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
In addition to discussing the education component, which is still under development, Barrow said The First Tee leaders will determine systems needed to maintain consistency from facility to facility. “What challenges will we face? Even though we had some facilities open in 2000, I really believe the first full year of operations is next year.”
The First Tee of Chesterfield County in the Richmond, Va., area is one of the 37 facilities open. Local businessman Fred Tattersall is the project’s founder and supports The First Tee’s broader agenda.
“I think what started out as a good project to introduce kids who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to play golf has expanded beyond the idea of just teaching golf,” Tattersall said. “That’s the big change I see at the national and local levels.
“What do we want to create – 100,000 more junior golfers to be eventual adult golfers one day or stronger families and better values in kids?”
James Gabrielsen, a former three-time Georgia State Amateur champion and member of the 1971 Walker Cup team, started the First Tee of John A. White Park in Atlanta with his wife, Bobsy. He couldn’t agree more with Tattersall.
“(Life skills education) goes hand-in-hand with learning the game,” said Gabrielsen, whose nine-hole facility opened in April. “When we’re teaching things like rules, etiquette, honesty, sportsmanship and self-discipline. . . we hope they’ll go out in life with these life skills on the forefront of their minds.”
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the life skills component emerged at the local chapter level “because they felt strongly about them and were a very attractive thing.”
“Having that component is going to, and is now generating, more enthusiasm and excitement at the community level,” said Finchem, who doubles as the chairman of the World Golf Foundation First Tee Oversight Committee.
Added Barrow: “Life skills is important and over time, may be the distinguishing factor from other junior golf programs.”