News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 27, 2008

On and Off the Course: Life’s lessons on the golf course

By Jennifer Myers

During the Ryder Cup last weekend, there aired a number of commercials for RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) that starred participants from The First Tee, a program founded by the World Golf Foundation to enable kids from every walk of life to participate in golf, a game that teaches values for life and can be played for a lifetime.

The mission of The First Tee is “to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character-development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.”

Created in November 1997, an initial goal was to have 100 golf-learning facilities in some form of development by the end of the year 2000, but its founders realized that there was a larger opportunity than just teaching the game of golf. Primary objectives became more involved in providing young people of all backgrounds the opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. Thus, The First Tee Life Skills Experience was born.

The First Tee is unique in that it teaches these lessons for life as part of the basic instruction program. A child cannot opt out of the life skills portion of while participating in The First Tee because these lessons are integrated into the physical instruction. These lessons for life are taught through various golf-related activities designed with the primary goal of having fun. Participants learn valuable lessons about the importance of keeping a positive attitude, how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences of ones’ actions, and how to set goals from the golf course to everyday life.

The First Tee wants all who complete its program to have acquired basic golf skills and to be able to demonstrate certain fundamental life skill concepts — such as communication skills and the importance of rules and etiquette. They are given a number of golf and life skills lessons and play a certain number of rounds on their chapter’s course. Participants go through a certification process with five general requirements: core lesson exposure, life skills application, golf skills application, life skills knowledge, and golf knowledge. The levels of certification are Par, Birdie, Eagle, and Ace.

It is the World Golf Foundation’s belief that the lessons learned through the Life Skills Experience are lessons that will remain with young people throughout their lives, regardless of how long they play golf for recreation.

The nine core values that are taught are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, perseverance, courtesy, judgment and responsibility.

The closest chapter of The First Tee to the Terre Haute area is in Indianapolis. The lessons learned through golf are not limited to that organization though. Locally, Mackenzie Mack and the rest of the Indiana State women’s golf team have been hosting clinics for kids at The Fore Seasons Golf Complex, calling their clinics “Tee It Up.”

The Boys and Girls Club of Terre Haute has been having summer golf clinics for children for many years at local courses.

Getting children started on the game of golf is admirable for many reasons, so the courses that encourage juniors to play should be given some of the credit too. One of the good reasons for courses to welcome juniors is in the hopes they will continue playing the game for the rest of their lives. Not only do the courses benefit, but society ultimately benefits too!

Everybody seems willing to help children, it’s a feel good thing, and the returns one gets are immeasurable. But how do we get more adults interested in golf, especially women? It may be a sign of the struggling economy, or maybe just a changing of the times, but it seems like fewer young adults are taking up the game. One person who is trying to present golf in a positive light is Charlotte Jones Anderson, vice president of the Dallas Cowboys. She has done a video that can be seen on the web at called “Join the Club: Better Golf for Women presented by Kohler.” It is a video celebration of the growth of the game for career-minded women.

Another potential place on the web to get started is the site for Play Golf America. There are links for new and returning golfers, casual and avid golfers, family golf and Golf for Women, corporate golf, and individuals with disabilities. Golf is such a great sport, and the life lessons that it teaches are not just for children. Anyone can benefit from learning to play the game!

Quote of the Day — “Golf is one of the last refuges of real sport. You’re your own policeman, and the behavior of its athletes is quite remarkable when you compare it to other sports.” — Jim McKay, announcer