For those who don’t know, golf seemingly is about silly pants, troublesome gophers, and complex rules that are hard to understand. In reality, there is a lot more to the game than meets the eye. In addition to providing a fun, low-impact form of exercise, golf can introduce young people to the simple joy of being outside.
The game’s honor system teaches integrity and responsibility. The requirement to be quiet while others are trying to concentrate teaches respect and courtesy. Lining up a shot or deciding what type of club to use in a specific situation requires judgment and problem-solving skills.
With these ideas in mind, First Tee was formed in 1997 to make golf affordable and accessible for all children. Using golf as a framework, the national organization created a curriculum supporting the development of nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
“Having a chance to share my love for the game has made me very happy to be a part of First Tee,” says Craig Sandstrum, director of programming of the Wilmington chapter and a 25-year member of the PGA. “Seeing their enthusiasm is really amazing, and it’s awesome to think I’m helping them develop a connection to the nine core values.”
First Tee provides a variety of programs to help the next generation’s golfers reach their potential, on and off the course, including the National School Program, which works in conjunction with existing PE classes, after school and Saturday classes, summer camp, LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, and various outreach programs.
Girls Golf is a monthly clinic for ages 5 to 17 that usually takes place at Wilmington Municipal Golf Course. Led by First Tee-Wilmington Executive Director Brittany Zachrich, it is popular for its focus on helping young women make lasting friendships, gain confidence, serve the community, and learn the game, all in a relaxed, comfortable setting.
Using golf as a framework, the national organization created a curriculum supporting the development of nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
“Being a part of First Tee has been wonderful,” says Zachrich, a PGA professional who played golf at Appalachian State University. “As the saying goes, ‘if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.’ I’ve definitely found this to be true with First Tee, as it’s rewarding to see the kids develop the confidence and character traits that come from the game, the same game that has taught me so many life lessons. Having the opportunity to change a kid’s life for the better is something I don’t take for granted and it motivates me every day!”
Since its founding in 2012, First Tee-Greater Wilmington has made a positive impact on the lives of more than 14,000 area youth. This includes working with local organizations including the Brigade Boys & Girls Club, Community Boys & Girls Club, and GLOW Academy. In a survey of participants, 91 percent indicated they were involved in community service while involved in First Tee, and 80 percent said First Tee made them better students.