More than fundamentals, First Tee youth golf teaches life lessons
Where better than the Grand Strand, the seaside golf capital of the world, to introduce kids to the game and teach a few life lessons in the process? The non-profit youth golf organization First Tee of the Grand Strand has a strong character-building mission and seeks to teach area youth its trademarked Nine Core Values using golf as a tool.
Executive director Rich Abraham has been at the helm for a little less than two years. He and program director Patrick O’ Brien are the only two paid staff within the self-sustaining organization. Some 120 volunteers help run the spring and fall eight-week sessions, which offer more than just tips on improving your swing or how to line up a putt.
“First and foremost we’re a character-building organization,” says Abraham, who moved to the area from Charlotte five years ago, “and we use golf as the context.” All sports can help teach values, admits Abraham, but he says there’s something unique about golf that really helps to teach kids and teens important core values—nine to be exact.
The Nine Core Values?
Honesty: Golf requires players to call penalties on themselves and self-report scores.
Integrity: “Golf is a game of etiquette and composure,” says First Tee’s literature.
Sportsmanship: “Wining and losing with grace.”
Respect: “In golf it’s important to show respect for oneself, playing partners, fellow competitors, the golf course, and for the traditions of the game.”
Confidence: It plays a key role in becoming a successful golfer.
Responsibility: You’re responsible for your actions on the golf course.
Perseverance: “Through bad breaks and a player’s own mistakes.”
Courtesy: “A round of golf should begin and end with a handshake.”
Judgment: “Club selection, when to play it safe and when to take a chance, the type of shot and healthy choices on and off the field.”
In addition to teaching the game in after school programs, First Tee supports a National School Program taught by elementary school physical education teachers who use First
Tee’s methodology and syllabus to teach the Nine Core Values, along with fundamentals of the game. “All 11 elementary schools in Georgetown participate,” said Abraham, “and 14 elementary schools in Horry County participate. The total impact locally is some 12,000 youth.”
As a branded affiliate of the Carol S. Petrea Youth Golf Foundation, Inc., based in Shallotte, the First Tee Grand Strand serves Horry and Georgetown counties.
“We all are self-supporting here,” says Abraham. “There’s no money coming in from outside. We have generous sponsors and donors, and we’re working on reestablishing a relationship with Hootie and the Blowfish and the Monday After the Masters as a part of our fundraising efforts.”
“This is important work,” said Abraham. “The kids, our sponsors, the volunteers, all gain. It’s a win-win.”
Learn more about youth sign-up, volunteering, tournaments and programs, and donating at www.thefirstteethegrandstrand.org.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY of FIRST TEE OF THE GRAND STRAND