The Backdoor To The Clubhouse: Expanding Golf Opportunities To The Underprivileged

July 19, 2011
Written by Alison McAdam in
Eyes On The Enterprise
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The First Tee teaches kids about all aspects of the business as well as sportsmanship, confidence and responsibility. Photo Credit: Public Domain

The First Tee is a national non-profit charitable organization that uses the game of golf to teach nine core values of life to young people. Their mission is positive youth development. Those nine core values are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. A game like golf, which requires successful players to embody these values is the perfect set up. The goal is to motivate the underserved or at risk population in each community to be better citizens.

While golf is the perfect game to teach these skills, it is traditionally a game of the elite, moneyed set. It’s also an expensive sport to play, and doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the underprivileged even with the assistance. The Eagle County, Colo., chapter of First Tee expanded their mission to go beyond playing golf, where minority children of all races face barriers in the pursuit of the game, as well as teach children the business side of the game.

The Director of Eagle County First Tee seized the initiative and designed courses and camps in club-making, course design, landscape design and retail operations. This chapter of The First Tee runs summer camps during six weeks of the summer and approximately 700 kids, ages 6-18 participate. They also run an after school program during the school year. In the club-making clinic, after the kids make their own golf clubs (which involves math, engineering, and some basic carpentry), they go to a golf simulator to try them out. At the local Par 3 course, there are plans to implement a retail operation the First Tee kids will help run, from merchandising and marketing to running the register. Although no one plays golf in Eagle County during the winter months, these additional programs keep the kids focused, engaged, and learning skills related to the game.

In addition to the summer clinic, this chapter put together a program called “Girls Night Out,” aimed at keeping females interested in the game. Local female pros host a weekly event that includes nine holes of golf, dinner, and some form of business/life mentoring. Community leaders speak on topics aimed at enriching and enhancing the girls’ lives. Even if they choose not to become golf pros, these young women might become inspired to start their own golf-related businesses.

The National First Tee hosts a golf tournament in Pebble Beach, Calif., in late summer. Each chapter encourages their participants to apply for a spot. The application process is rigorous and with the help of family, golf professionals, and mentors in the chapter, kids draw on all of the life skills they learned in The First Tee. If selected, the player and family members go for a week to Pebble Beach to work with a Senior PGA player and compete in a bona fide PGA tournament. Last year Eagle County’s own Dillon McDonald won the spot. Although they did not accept his application the first year, he doubled his volunteer hours, played in highly competitive events, and focused his essay on perseverance, which resulted in winning the spot. Neither the classroom, nor a clinic would have duplicated the experience and confidence McDonald developed during his week at Pebble Beach.

The benefits beyond the core values of golf include, new skill sets, writing comprehensive applications, experience running golf operations, and meeting the players behind the scenes. Stoking the passions for all aspects of the great game has been a success for this Colorado Chapter of The First Tee and hopefully, soon, it will become a very successful recipe for some up and coming golf entrepreneurs.



Eyes On The Enterprise