by Rob Krieger — PGA Director of Instruction
The game of golf, like any sport, says its future is in its youth. The First Tee program for kids ages seven to seventeen, takes it to another level for growing the game of golf. It started 20 years ago with a simple question, “Why don’t more kids play golf?” To figure out why, the PGA of America, PGA Tour, USGA, the Masters Tournament, and the LPGA began working together to figure out a way to make junior golf more affordable and also bring the game to economically challenged communities. The First Tee found that by utilizing the many honorable values that the game of golf was based on and relating them to life lessons, not only would this help grow the game of golf but it would also develop community-oriented youth and better citizens. That’s why the First Tee program uses the game of golf as the medium to foster values into life skills that juniors use on the course, at home, and away from the sport. The hope is that they will use these skills for the rest of their lives. Juniors learn the 9 Core Values of:
Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Perseverance, Respect, Confidence, Courtesy, Judgment, and Responsibility
In conjunction with the 9 Core Values, children are also taught about the 9 Heathy Habits of: Energy, Play, Safety, Vision, Mind, Family, Friends, School, and Community
As the children grow and progress through the program, they must show growth in the game, and knowledge and understanding of the 9 Core Values and Healthy Habits by passing regular assessments. Upon passing, they are rewarded by advancing through the 5 Program Levels: PLAYer, Par, Birdie, Eagle, and Ace.
The First Tee program with its 3,900 coaches and 24,000 volunteers, has reached 5.3 million youth across the entire United States, as well as globally. These programs are located at 1,200 golf courses, 1,000 youth centers, and 9,000 elementary schools, with even more growth expected in the coming years. The gender breakdown for the program is about 40% female and 60% male. Regionally, there are chapters close by in Utah and Nevada.
Locally, the First Tee of Utah at Southgate, has been operating out of Southgate Golf Club. It was brought to southern Utah by several people, including Nathan Fisher, David Hunter, and their law firm, as well as the Caddy Group who started it. They are stalwarts for its continued progress. They have been donating money, time, volunteers, and resources to make this program prosper. The executive director for The First Tee Utah, Paul Paugmire says, “Quite frankly, the program would not be here in southern Utah without them taking the lead … to make it happen and succeed. Their contributions and dedication to the program, along with the volunteers that help each week, are getting kids engaged, and the program is thriving in St. George.”
The program operates two 10-week sessions on Thursdays from 4:00-5:30 PM in spring and fall. The spring session begins in March and ends in May, just as school will be finishing, and in the fall in August, just after school begins. Parents can sign their kids up by registering online at www.thefirstteeutah.org.
For those wondering about the St. George City’s Junior Association of Golfers program (JAG), its focus is mostly golf and tournament play. It runs during the summer months when the kids are out of school. Therefore, between the two, they run independently, but funnel kids to each of the programs. The First Tee and JAG are great assets to our community. The City of
St. George sponsors and supports both programs to help kids stay active.
Last fall, I took over as the new PGA Professional Lead Instructor/Director administering the program in our area. It is a great opportunity to not only teach golf, but more importantly, to develop our local youth. I started playing golf at the age of six, and growing up, I learned a lot of life lessons on the course from my father and his friends. This on the course education, and the people I played with, are memories I cherish to this day. That is why I am excited to be a part of The First Tee which is an amazing way to work with our local youth. This program boasts that “91% of the alumni while in the First Tee engaged in community service, and that 85% of alumni credit the program for making them a better student” (source www.thefirsttee.org).
If you would like to donate or volunteer your time to help with The First Tee program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will determine how you may help. This program is a lot of fun, and we need volunteers who are interested in helping kids have a positive experience while they gain wisdom and make friends. Remember, golf is an activity that can be played for a lifetime with family and friends. See you on The First Tee.
Fairways & Greens … Rob Krieger