BY TAMAH MULLER
The First Tee began in 1997, when Joe Barrow, the son of the professional boxer Joe Lewis, had a vision to help economically challenged kids learn the game of golf. His vision evolved into developing nine core values—honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. The First Tee organization has grown to include 170 chapters across the United States, and five international chapters. The First Tee of the Triad is one of the top five chapters in the country.
In addition to the nine core values, nine healthy habits were added ten years ago with the help of Annika Sorenstam, retired championship golfer, and great partner with The First Tee.
These nine habit categories include:
Physical – energy, play, safety
Emotional – vision, mind, family
Social – friends, school, community
The First Tee of the Triad incorporated in 2007 and started programming in 2008 at three locations—Tanglewood Park, Winston Lake, and Gillespie Golf course. They are now in 20 locations, stretching from Salisbury to Burlington. Spring classes begin in March and run for eight weeks; fall classes run from August to October. They host multiple summer camps, and provide a half-dozen tournaments for the kids to play in. They have a par-three series at Tanglewood Park to allow the kids to use what they have learned in a playing setting. There are seven or eight national opportunities that the kids are encouraged to play in as they develop their golf game.
The First Tee is available to kids from age 7 to 18. They can begin at any age, and they progress through a five-level program as they gain knowledge, maturity, and experience in the program.
These levels are as follows:
PLAYer (minimum age 7)
Introduces the game of golf with special emphasis on The First Tee Code of Conduct, appreciating the rules and etiquette of the game, and The First Tee Nine Core Values.
PAR (recommended minimum age 9)
Focuses on interpersonal communication and self-management skills.
BIRDIE (recommended minimum age 11)
EAGLE (recommended minimum age 13)
Emphasizes resilience skills, conflict resolution, and planning for the future.
ACE (required minimum age 14 or entering 9th grade)
The highest program level of The First Tee—focusing on setting goals for golf, career, and education, and giving back to the community.
The ACE program is where the kids graduate and is similar to the Eagle Scout program. The participants are involved in various activities, including community service. Every child that completes their ACE projects and activities is guaranteed a $1,000 check.
The First Tee of the Triad is one of the leaders around the country in graduating kids. They had nine ACE graduates honored at the awards dinner in November 2016. The Triad chapter is very proud to have a high percentage of the graduating participants around the country. Their focus is character development and teaching life skills to help prepare these children for succeeding in life.
The First Tee of the Triad registration is open for their spring session, and classes will begin at the end of March. For anyone interested in registering their child, visit TheFirstTeeTriad.org and select the location where they would like their child to participate that is convenient for them. A new participant would sign up for the PLAYer class at their chosen location, and at the first class, they will be provided with golf clubs and golf balls. Training takes place at a great facility, with instruction from trained, adult volunteer coaches. Some of these coaches also attend national training sessions, including local training courses at Winston Lake and Gillespie Golf. With a five-to-one ratio of kids to coaches, participants get individualized attention. No one is turned away, anyone can participate, and everyone is welcome. The cost is $75 per season, and the tournaments and clinics are $5 to $10. “$75 with all of the golf instruction, all of the equipment provided, at a great facility—there is no better bargain in any sport or any organization. All they have to do is show up, and bring a great attitude,” said Mike Barber, CEO of The First Tee of the Triad. Full scholarship opportunities are also available to participants signing up, as The First Tee would like to provide this opportunity to everyone interested in joining their program.
The First Tee of the Triad, including all of their locations, had approximately 1400 kids in their classes in 2016. They operate about 55 classes throughout their locations in the Triad per season. Each season the classes are once a week for eight weeks, from 4:30 pm to 6 pm.
If your child is interested in participating, or you would like to volunteer (no experience necessary), please visit TheFirstTeeTriad.org. Donations are also accepted online.