First Tee Teaching Golf and More to Valley Youth
That is the mission of The First Tee, a golf program for children ages 4 though 18.
“We give the kid a club and they swing on their own. We give them instructions on how to swing properly. We want golf to be seen as a fun sport, not kids asking ‘when are we going to have fun,’” he said.
But, there is much more to the program than just learning the game of golf.
“We teach them core values and life skills they will need for their entire life,” said Hugh Smith, executive director of The First Tee. “One of the ways we measure success is not making pro golfers, but making great kids.”
The youths can start as early as age 4. The little ones are grouped with others through age 6 and are called the “Tiny Tees.” Those 7 through 17 are a part of the regular program. The young golfers progress through several different levels of skill as they try to perfect their game.
The First Tee program is in 160 schools in Maricopa County, said Chris Kaplan, a spokesman for the organization, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“We were recently recognized as the largest chapter in the country,” Kaplan said.
First Tee offers classes year around at 11 locations including Aquila Golf Course in Laveen, which will open to them this month. The classes take place three times a week. Smith said.
The year is broken up into four sessions for eight to 12 weeks each. The upcoming session begins on September 17.
“Each location has its own calendar,” Smith said. So, parents should check their local golf club for information.
The sites for the program include all five City of Phoenix golf courses as well a Cave Creek, Encanto, Palo Verde, Maryvale, Lone Tree, South Mountain, Desert Mirage, Papago, Longbow and Falcon Dunes.
The annual membership costs $60, which breaks down to about $5 a month, but if a child’s parent can’t afford that, there are scholarships.
“I never want cost to be a barrier,” Smith said.
The organization reaches out to Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, church and school groups to find children who have never tried the game of golf.
Besides learning the game of golf, the youths learn nine core values including honesty, integrality, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, judgment and courtesy.
But, the activities don’t stop with the children. There are outings all year long for the entire family like visiting a water park, going camping, ice skating or bowling or heading to a Suns or Diamondbacks game.
The organization is always looking for volunteers who want to work with children and have a positive impact on them, Smith said.
And a donation of golf equipment is also welcome. Golfers could donate equipment they no longer use from clubs to bags or even clothing and shoes.
“We have kids who have never owned a collared shirt before,” Smith said.
A wonderful example of how the program can work is Taylor Wonderling who began his golf career as a child at The First Tee.
He worked his way up the rungs of the program and is now working at the Nick Faldo Golf Academy at the Francisco Grande Resort in Case Grande.
“He’s down there working and also going to college.
The First Tee is non-profit and supported by The Thunderbirds, an organization founded in 1937 to promote the Valley of the Sun through sports. The organization hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open the best attended golf tournament in the world which has raised $80 million for Valley charities, including the First Tee of Phoenix.
To learn more visit the organization’s website at www.thrfirstteephoenix.org.