It’s much more than golf lessons for juniors. In fact, it’s more like life lessons taught under the guise of golf.
“We teach life skills and core values,” said Cody Weems, the executive director of the First Tee Tri-Cities and the regional director for the Tennessee Golf Foundation. “Golf is the vehicle we use, but the First Tee is more than a golf program.”
Those core values taught are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
“We teach that the things that allow you to be successful in golf also allow you to be successful in life,” Weems said. “Golf is one sport you can play well past retirement age. It’s a game they hopefully continue to play throughout their life and hopefully it continues to benefit them off the course as well.”
The life skills include, according to the group, self-management, interpersonal communication, goal setting, mentoring and effective conflict resolution.
The First Tee of Tri-Cities begins its spring operations on April 2. Registration is underway at www.TheFirstTeeTriCities.org.
The local program, for juniors age 7-18, is being held at seven courses in five cities: Kingsport’s Cattails at MeadowView and Warriors’ Path, Johnson City’s Johnson City Country Club and Pine Oaks, Greeneville’s Link Hills, Bristol’s Steele Creek and Glenrochie, in Abingdon, Va.
The course time is donated by the facilities — some private, some public — making it possible to keep the cost low for participants.
“We are very appreciative,” Weems said about the cooperation of the courses. “It’s a great partnership between the First Tee and all the local facilities. Without them we couldn’t do this. Their future members and customers are all junior golfers right now, so it’s in their best interest to help grow the game.”
Adam Dean is the program director, and several local pros — and even some avid golfers — have been certified through the First Tee’s national organization as teachers. Numerous volunteers contribute time as well to make it all work.
First Tee was begun nationally in 1997. The local outfit is about to enter its 11th year.
Last year, a near-capacity 350 local kids took part. Nationally, more than 5 million kids participated in the program at 1,200 facilities.
“It’s grown tremendously around here,” Weems said. “It started out as a grass roots program at couple facilities. The program has really taken off over the past four or five years and we hope it continues to grow.”