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George Waters Spotlight: First Tee Twin Cities

December 1, 2016

Along with First Tee of South Dakota, the First Tee Twin Cities program based in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul was also selected as a recipient of a George Waters Memorial Grant.

Similar to most First Tee programs, The First Tee of the Twin Cites carries out a character education program that is taught through the game of golf.

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“The kids are learning golf, but not only that, they are applying the character skills we teach to their everyday lives,” said First Tee of Twin Cities Executive Director, Brian Simpson. Integrity, honesty and respect are just a few of the nine core values taught through the First Tee program.”

First Tee St. Paul began in 2005 before eventually merging with First Tee Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation to form The First Tee of the Twin Cities. Since then, the program has 14 golf course locations across the Minneapolis and St. Paul area to date. In addition to the numerous golf courses hosting, the program has made its way into local schools. As a part of the National School Program, the First Tee Twin Cities loans resources to schools in the area as well as part of Wisconsin.

“We give schools and their Physical Education instructors what we call our SNAG (Starting New At Golf) equipment and each teacher will introduce the kids to golf and incorporate the core values in their lesson plan,” Simpson explained.

“We have 15 schools with about 500 kids per school that are introduced to the game of golf on a yearly basis,” he added.

And that is in addition to the 14 courses that host children and kids on a weekly basis.

Kids of many different abilities, backgrounds and ethnicities, primarily ages 4-12, participate in the program. The program, as a whole, acts as a mentorship education as many of the past participants continue to stay involved once they reach their early teens but more so in a leadership role.

Another unique aspect of the First Tee is that they are able to help grant person(s) scholarships, full and partial, on a yearly basis dependent upon their academic success, involvement in First Tee and golf career thus far.

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“Five years ago, when we were the First Tee St. Paul, a young girl in the program received a full scholarship to New York University,” Simpson said. “That was a really cool moment in the program.”

Each class begins with a 5-10 minute warm-up usually consisting of some sort of meet and greet with the kids or an ice breaker to erase any anxiousness. After that they go into an introduction of a specific golf skill whether it be grip, posture, set-up, etc. They use the golf exercise to teach the game while incorporating the core value or life skill for the day which takes up most of the session. At the end of the class, they review the core value and discuss how they can use it for the rest of the day and beyond.

“The money from this year’s grant went to fund the special needs outreach program that wouldn’t be possible without it,” he said. “The grant gives kids with special needs that normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to play, the chance to. It gives us extra staffing and the ability to let them play free of charge, too.”

Simpson also expressed gratitude toward his peers in the Section, “it also wouldn’t be possible without the help of the twenty-some Minnesota PGA Professionals involved with the program or administer lessons through First Tee.”

The Minnesota Section PGA consists of PGA Professionals who are experts in the game and business of golf. Our mission is to promote the enjoyment and involvement of the game of golf and to contribute to its growth by providing services to golf professionals, the golf industry, people who play golf or would like to start playing golf. PGA Section Offices oversee the 41 geographic regions throughout the United States and provide the grass-roots network for the nation’s 25 million amateur golfers and with the PGA’s 27,000 members.

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