The goal of the First Tee Program is to teach honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, courtesy, judgment and perseverance. Learning to golf is a bonus.
Donna Daniels said the program is working for her 12-year-old son, Austin. She doesn’t golf and neither does her husband, but Austin was enthralled with the game, so his parents put him in the program. “He has been taking this for probably four years. He loves this golf camp. I think he’s learned not to give up.”
As young golfers progress through the program’s levels of player, par, birdie, eagle and ace, they are required to take and pass written tests to demonstrate life skills, as well as proficiency at the game of golf.
Jenny Vogt, coordinator for the First Tee of Prince William County, said learning the program’s nine core values is almost inherent in playing the game of golf.
Deciding not to hit a golf ball down range when someone is within range is a small example of how children might learn judgment on the course. “It helps them in making correct decisions, thinking more in line with the big picture,” Vogt said.
First Tee students learn early on that they’ll need perseverance to play golf. “It’s a tough game,” she said.
Confidence comes from the game itself. “You can go out and play by yourself and end up meeting lots of new people. Knowing how to act on the golf course … just allows them to understand how that fits into their real lives.”
She went on to say that adhering to customs and courtesies on the golf course automatically instill courtesy, respect and sportsmanship. Integrity and honesty take care of themselves as golfers follow the rules of the game.
“The idea behind the First Tee is to create great people not necessarily great golfers, but they should be able to learn to play golf,” said Vogt. “I want them to learn to play the game, but really, the idea is to make them great people.”