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The First Tee
The First Tee has been golf’s most influential youth development program over the past two decades, offering both golf and life lessons to kids.
The nonprofit organization was introduced in 1997 through a partnership among the PGA TOUR, USGA, LPGA, PGA of America and the Masters Tournament, starting out as a way to bring affordable junior golf to communities without such programs, particularly economically disadvantaged areas.
Soon after its inception, leaders of The First Tee discovered that by blending life and leadership skills with the rules of golf, youngsters and teenagers learned important values in addition to how to putt and hit a driver. Today, the First Tee’s mission is to provide youth with educational programs that build character, instill these life lessons and promote healthy choices – all through the game of golf.
The First Tee shapes its experiences by introducing its Nine Core Values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. Over the past 20 years, it’s helped millions of kids and teenagers develop the values and life skills that extend well beyond the golf course.
The organization’s programs are delivered at golf courses, elementary schools and youth centers, with more than 1,200 locations across the U.S. that provide access to clubs and balls in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., who retired as CEO of The First Tee at the end of 2017, was the driving leadership force behind the organization’s growth and development.
When he came aboard in 2000, The First Tee had approximately 100 golf facilities open or in development. Also known as “Chief Evangelist,” Barrow helped evolve The First Tee’s mission and bring development programs to kids at more than 1,000 golf courses, 8,000 schools and 800 after-school locations.
“I am deeply proud of the positive impact The First Tee has had over the years, especially the number of young people who are now in a different place because of our work,” said Barrow, who was succeeded by former Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins at the start of 2018.
“I am grateful and gratified to know our chapters will continue the mission in their communities, delivering Nine Core Values to young people from all backgrounds, and doing so not only on golf courses, but in elementary schools and at other youth serving locations,” Barrow added. “The First Tee has and always will be more than a game to the young people we reach.”
The First Tee may have started at the golf course, but it quickly realized its values extend far beyond the fairways and greens. It’s why the organization launched both in-school and after-school programs for youth and now reaches more than 5 million kids a year.
The First Tee National School Program was started in 2004, bringing the core values (and the sport of golf) to gym classes in elementary schools around the country. In 2012, an after-school program called The First Tee DRIVE was launched to cater to youth participating in organizations such as the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs.
In terms of overall impact, The First Tee remains one of the preeminent and most influential youth golf development programs in the industry.