THE FIRST TEE Golf Program teaches young people the rules of golf and core values for life. Above: Skylar McLean watches as Liam Sutton rolls tennis balls toward a velcro target.

Brandon Nottingham
Staff Writer

The goal of The First Tee Program is to introduce golf and character building to children in the school system.

According to its history posted on its website, The First Tee School Golfing Program was formed in 2004. First Tee began as a way to bring an affordable junior golf program to communities that did not have one, especially in economically disadvantaged areas. What First Tee soon discovered was that blending the rules of the game of golf with life and leadership skills, young people didn’t just learn how to putt, but they were also learning important values. By bringing golf to a whole new generation, The First Tee had a unique opportunity to focus on the life skills inherent in the game.
Whether those challenges are social or emotional, The First Tee uses golf as the foundation for a curriculum that teaches a range of valuable life and leadership lessons. Each character quality is tied into the golf lesson that is presented, as well as providing healthy-choices activities. It targets children in kindergarten through fifth grade and helps provide a fun, learning environment.

Tanner Baldwin tries his hand at putting.

The nationwide program has made its way into Pocahontas County.

Green Bank Elementary Middle School teacher Erin Baldwin recently learned about this special program and decided it would be a great one to integrate into the GBEMS learning curriculum.

“I was looking for activities that could be brought into our school system that would help the kids with important life skills, and I happened to stumble on this one by chance,” Baldwin said. “The First Tee offers more than golf lessons for kids, its offers life lessons. In every experience with The First Tee youth are introduced to Nine Core Values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perse- verance, courtesy and judgment. The program starts off small, learning what a target is in golf and about all of the equipment. The students then practice these lessons before moving on to more advanced techniques. They started off rolling tennis balls toward velcro targets, and once they master that, they move on up, getting more and more advanced as they go, until they make it to golf clubs and target holes.

“This program is awesome because it can be used indoors or outdoors, so we can utilize this program through the winter.”
Along with being fun, the students gain better core values which helps them to integrate with society.

“Our first lesson dealt with courtesy and respect,” Baldwin continued. “So we go over listening and following directions, as well as playing by the rules and safety.

“For example, we set up as players and caddies, and before they could switch roles, they had to go up and give the other players high fives, just to show courtesy and kindness as well as respect for others.”

Tom Booth, Physical Education instructor at GBEMS, will assist Baldwin with The First Tee Program.

“I think it’s a great program, and I am excited to help the kids learn about both golfing and great values,” Booth said. “I plan to have great fundamentals and safety come out of this program. It shows great promise.”

For more information, visit thefirsttee.org