Golf Giving Back
As another Minnesota winter concludes, golfers statewide are clearing the dust from their clubs in preparation to hit the links once again. This comes just after the final round of The Masters, perhaps the most exciting day of the year for many golfers.
As someone who loves the sport, I cannot be more irked by the untrue stereotype that golf is exclusively an aristocrat’s game. Not only is golf an excellent hobby for people of all ages, but those within the golf industry have made a laudable effort to give back to the community and make the game more accessible.
An excellent example of this can be found in the First Tee program, a nationwide non-profit organization that strives to provide youths with affordable access to the game. Recently, Minnesota 2020 spoke with Brian Simpson, the Executive Director of the First Tee program in Saint Paul, and Martha Nause, an LPGA Tour veteran who pioneered First Tee’s expansion to Saint Paul.
Nause highlighted the specific ways in which First Tee positively impacts the greater community here within the Twin Cities. She stated the goal of First Tee as not only to provide youths with golf lessons but character lessons as well. First Tee incorporates a “Life Skills Module” into their program which stresses personal values such as respect, goal setting, and staying cool under pressure.
Simpson emphasized First Tee’s outreach program, which targets at risk youths. Through this program, kids can apply for “paid scholarships,” whereby they get golf lessons and clubs for free. The outreach program also offers $75 credits to children of military personnel and has a partnership with Highland Friendship Club, another non-profit organization which attempts to create positive social experiences for children with special needs.
Moreover, First Tee Saint Paul also offers free Saturday golf clinics. Having such a productive and reliable outlet for the weekends is often a major resource for children who could get involved with gangs, drugs, or other high risk or illegal activities instead.
Caitlin Opperman, a graduate of the First Tee program in Denver, offered her thoughts on other positive aspects of the organization. “While I never personally worked for First Tee,” Opperman stated, “many other First Tee graduates did. That was a great way to get those with a passion for golf, but who may not have otherwise had the opportunities, more involved.”
First Tee is truly the kind of community program that makes Minnesota great. Instilling positive values in our children and providing them with an enjoyable, character building hobby will certainly pay off for everyone in the future. Hit ‘em straight, kids. Fairways and birdies!