The First Tee Celebrates 25 Years
I doubt that there has been any initiative over the last twenty five years that has been more effective at growing the game of golf than The First Tee.
Launched in 1997 by the PGA TOUR, the LPGA, Augusta National, The PGA of America and the USGA, the First Tee’s original mission was to try to make golf more affordable for youth.
As the program grew, so too did its mission. Today, The First Tee uses golf as the centerpiece of an educational curriculum to help youth develop life skills, character, confidence and resilience.
Golf certainly is a game that can teach all of that. It will also teach humility and grit.
In 2022, the First Tee has 150 chapters that run programs at 1,400 golf courses, 10,000 schools and 1,700 youth centers in all fifty states and in Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Morocco. In 2021, First Tee impacted more than 2.2 million kids and teens. Additionally, more than 10,000 adults are involved each year in support of The First Tee.
As a public school teacher, I am completely on board with The First Tee’s mission. So many youth today could benefit from The First Tee’s lessons on self confidence, resilience and character. These are not the sorts of things that one is born with; they are skills that must be demonstrated, modeled, and practiced.
Former president George W. Bush currently serves as the honorary Chair of the First Tee. His father, former president George H.W. Bush was involved at the programs launch twenty five years ago.
As a side note, President H.W. Bush is in the World Golf Hall of Fame for lifetime contributions to the game. Working with the First Tee no doubt is one of those contributions. (For what it’s worth, the Bush family has long been involved in golf; Prescott Bush, H.W.’s father served as President of the USGA. The Walker Cup is named after George Herbert Walker, H.W.’s grandfather, who also served as USGA President.)
Going forward, the First Tee is working to upgrade its technology, including an app that will add digital experiences and gamification to the program. An upgraded age-based curriculum was part of a refresh in 2020.
“Since day one, First Tee has been intentional about reaching young people from diverse backgrounds, and that commitment continues today,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “Most years, between 40 and 50 percent of participants at chapters are non-Caucasian, and approximately 38% are female. Our network of chapter leaders, coaches, volunteers, board members and donors remain committed to breaking down barriers. And they continue to inspire me as we prepare for the future.”
Here in Michigan, The First Tee gets a lot of support from the golf community. The First Tee of Greater Detroit, for example, enjoys support from the PGA TOUR’s Rocket Mortgage Classic. The First Tee of Northern Michigan enjoys support from Boyne Golf resorts.
On Nov. 16-18, representatives from First Tee’s network of 150 chapters will convene in Dallas for its Network Summit – the first in five years – to celebrate the anniversary and continue building momentum for the future with robust workshops, training and peer-to-peer networking. The Summit is presented by Century Golf Partners and made possible by other corporate partners who stand behind First Tee’s mission.