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Teaching Core Values Through Golf

Executive Director Jill Brown shares the mission and heart behind First Tee Augusta

Article by Michelle W. Parnell

Photography by Edward Cordes with 4 Forty 4 Photography

Originally published in Evans City Lifestyle

What is First Tee?

First Tee is an international program developed to introduce young people to positive core values through the game of golf. We are a 501c3 nonprofit organization and the Augusta chapter, which was established in 2001, is governed by the FORE Augusta Foundation.

Golf is an independent sport and you keep your own score. We can think of no better sport to illustrate the core values of all the things that First Tee holds dear. We have nine core values that our curriculum has been based on from the very beginning: courtesy, respect, judgment, responsibility, sportsmanship, confidence, honesty, integrity, and perseverance. All First Tees teach the same curriculum. We have the flexibility to modify our lesson plans; these values are something we hold dear in the culture of our chapter here in Augusta. It's very important to us that this is a place where those core values are taken seriously. Whether it's on the golf course or just a given day when kids are hanging out around here, we use every opportunity to embrace coachable moments to bring everything back to the core values.

What programs does First Tee offer?

We have an aged-based curriculum for students starting at age seven and going through high school. Our classes are broken down by age categories and we try to keep a ratio of one coach to eight students. Whether you are a beginner, never picked up a club in your life, or you've played a little bit, all students come in with their age group. Our classes are normally eight weeks long and meet once a week for 1.5 to 2 hours. The class is $100, but we never turn students away because they don't have the money to pay. There are also some students who have no equipment, and we do whatever we can to make sure that students have the equipment that they need. Thankfully, we have people who donate clubs, especially junior clubs, to help meet this need.

We also partner with schools to do school day programming because we know that there are parents who either do not have the availability to get their kids here or they just may not do it if they were going on interest alone. When we partner with schools, especially Title One schools, we pay for the buses to bring the kids here during the day, so the kids get the exposure and then they can go home and tell their parents have played golf today. We also give them our information and a full membership here so they can come back and practice.

How does First Tee Augusta make golf a sustainable activity for young people?

We want to have an ongoing relationship with these kids and families in the area so that they can genuinely benefit from the positive things that the game has to offer. People take a lot of pride in introducing or exposing young people to things, but we really work hard to make sure that we go beyond exposure. It's so easy to expose someone to something and then, when they find out they love it, they no longer have access to it. So, our goal here at First Tee has really evolved into not just exposing, but really introducing, students to golf and then making sure that we provide an ongoing access to the game in an affordable way. One of the ways we do this is through our six-hole golf course where students pay $1 a bucket to hit balls and $1 to play a round of golf.

How can the community support the mission of First Tee Augusta?

There are several ways people from the community can get involved. We invite the public to come out and just play the golf course during the day. It is six holes, so it's perfect for someone who's learning the game or perhaps is retired and doesn't want to spend four or five hours playing golf. The second thing is volunteering, whether it's being a volunteer coach or assisting with some other administrative tasks. Another way is to donate golf equipment or provide financial support. Rock Fore! Dough is our biggest fundraiser and it is held the Tuesday of Masters Week. All the money raised from the concert goes to benefit First Tee Augusta. We're able offer our programs because of very generous financial support from the community… it is what allows us to keep accessible golf readily available for the young people we serve.

First Tee Augusta is located at 3165 Damascus Rd, Augusta, GA. For more information, visit firstteeaugusta.org or call 706-364-4653.

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