A non-profit group in eastern North Carolina is helping kids from Carteret, Craven, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico and Pitt counties learn the game of golf. But it’s not just about improving their golf swing or putting skills, it’s about improving as an individual.
“They get honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, perseverance, respect, responsibility, confidence.”
Administrative Assistant with The First Tee of ENC Pamela Boyd.
“We also teach them about respect for their environment, respect for other people’s stuff and then respect for themselves and also to have pride in what you do.”
The First Tee is a nationwide youth development organization that’s reached more than 14 million young people since its inception. The eastern North Carolina chapter started in Craven County in 2012, the brainchild of PGA Professional at The Emerald Golf Course Jerry Briele and George Brooks, a Champions Tour caddie.
“The two of them noticed that there was a lack of students who were participating in golf so they were wondering if there were any programs out there. George happens to be a caddy and was out at Pebble Beach and he saw some First Tee students and he realized he wanted to bring the program here.”
This Tuesday was the first meeting since taking a break over the winter. The group started off with a series of warm ups and stretches. Then, it was time to hone their putting skills. Coach Brooks demonstrates the exercise.
“This is a straight putt over here and you want to keep your putter on the line on the string. Straight back and straight through. Come to the next one, go straight back and straight through.”
One by one, each student steps up to a line of three golf balls set at different distances from the hole. Volunteers with The First Tee offer tips and advice to help the students sink the putt.
“Just remember how far you take the putter back determines how far it’s going to go. Don’t take it quite as far as you did with that one.”
When each student finishes, they reset the golf balls for the next person and shake their hand. The next person in line congratulates them on a job well done.
By participating in the program, students are exposed to positive values connected with the game of golf. For instance, honesty is one of the nine core values.
“We will go out there and work on the mechanics of golf, so you’re working on your chipping, putting, and your driving. Some of the kids that are in the higher level will actually go out and play a couple of holes. Well when you go play holes, you’re actually in charge of keeping your own score. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to keep your score. So you will be demonstrating honesty in how you take your scores.”
These core values resonate with fourth grader Molly McGuire.
“I’ve been learning lots of different stuff. How you have to be honest and make sure you play fair when your playing golf and some things that have helped me through life and school and stuff like that.”
Molly has been with The First Tee ENC for a couple of years. Golf is favorite pastime for her family. She says her dad encouraged she and her brother to get involved in The First Tee program.
“I started out as a beginner, but like now I’ve improved to the level where I’m pretty, I think I’m pretty good at it.”
Did I mention confidence is one of the core values? That particular one came in handy for sixth grader Nicholas Glover, a First Tee ENC participant.
“One thing that I learned that helped me a lot is confidence because I’m also an actor at the Civic Theater and I remember I was doing my first show and was really nervous. But I learned about confidence here and I took that over to the theater and that helped me a lot.”
Over the years, Administrative Assistant Pamela Boyd says participation in First Tee ENC is anywhere from 40 to 100 students. This year, she says they have 50 students ranging in age from 7-18 years old coming from across eastern North Carolina to learn the game at The Emerald Golf Course in New Bern and Minnesott Country Club in Arapahoe.
Eighth grader Donovan Swindell says the program has helped him learn valuable life skills, make friends and get better at the game. He has a goal to join New Bern High Schools golf team next year.
“Yes, definitely, that’s going to be one of the things I’m going to do. Besides all the sports, that’s probably going to be one thing I do.”
For more information on The First Tee ENC, go to: http://www.thefirstteeenc.org/