What were your favorite sports when you were a kid? Was golf one of them? For many, it probably wasn’t because you didn’t have access to the game in school. Others just did not have any role models or know anyone who played the sport. The First Tee of Columbia should be proud that since 2004, they’ve helped to change that.
The First Tee is a Driving Range and learning center that introduces the game of golf to youth ages 5-18. The Columbia chapter’s location behind C.A. Johnson High School bustles with young players slinging golf bags and carrying clubs to their tees on Thursdays and Saturdays. Patricia Cokley and her grandson Damion have been there every Saturday for almost five years.
Patricia picked up golf in 1997 to keep active and find something fun to do in her free time. “Years later, when I went out in the front yard to work on my swing, Damion—three years old at the time—would always get in my way. So the best thing to do was to buy some plastic clubs for him and get him started,” says Patricia.
Patricia remembers bringing her grandson to the golf course for a first time and telling the instructors: “Hey look at my grandson, he’s gotta a pretty good swing,” They agreed and had him enroll in the program. Damion is nine years old now and his golf skills are really good for his age.
What Patricia likes most about The First Tee is that the children are not only mentored on the game of golf, they are also taught values inherent in the sport, such as self-management, goal-setting, and interpersonal skills. These values extend well beyond the golf course and are intended to develop participants into the leaders of tomorrow.
Players join one of three levels– Par (for beginners), Birdie, and Eagle in their successive order. In each level, the kids are taught different character-building skills in addition to The First Tee’s Nine Core Values—perseverance, responsibility, courtesy, judgment, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, competence, and respect.
“These nine core values are why I enrolled my grandson,” shares Patricia. “Values like courtesy and sportsmanship are extremely important, especially when kids are very young. I think the best thing about the program is the quality of the coaches and The First Tee’s emphasis on building character. I am so proud to be involved with this organization that is successfully shaping the lives of our young people through golf.”