Golf Chicago!
YOUNG & IN GOLF

The First Tee Needs You

The World Golf Foundation announced the First Tee initiative in November 1997 with a vision to introduce young people to the game of golf and its inherently positive values. The mission statement for the First Tee is: to impact the lives of young people around the world by creating affordable and accessible golf facilitates to primarily serve those who have not previously had exposure to the game and its positive values.

The prime vehicle to move on this mission statement is the local First Tee chapter situated in cities and town throughout the nation. The national First Tee would provide seed money for local chapters to begin their existence, reach out to youngsters, start parent volunteer groups and do all those things necessary to teach positive life lessons through golf. And that’s how it also began for the First Tee in North Chicago, or as it officially known, The Northeastern Illinois Junior Golf Alliance. (NEIJGA)

Since it began the NEIJGA has used Foss Park Golf Course, as it’s home base. Owned by the North Chicago Park District they have been extremely generous in letting the NEIJGA use the full range for the summer late afternoon teaching sessions. And from 6pm ‘til dark on Tuesday and Thursday evenings the tee line is filled with youngsters from six to 17-year-old swinging away under the guiding eyes of their teachers, often a PGA professional donating his time. On the other hand, parent and other adult volunteers’ are clearly the backbone of the operation.

It is a marvel to watch the kids and their teachers every evening that they are at Foss Park. And when a youngster hits a solid shot from the practice tee the joy is palpable. The goal here is not necessarily create the next Tiger Woods, just to develop skills that may follow each child into adulthood. And those skills include how to be a responsible adult in our society, through the Life Skills component of the First Tee. There are nine core values taught from the First Tee lesson book: responsibility, sportsmanship, perseverance, confidence, judgment, honesty, respect, courtesy, and integrity. These lessons will ultimately be more important than a proper back swing, but when combined with golf, the merger of the two is a beautiful thing.

In Phase Two of the objectives for the national First Tee one of the goals is to have 250 dedicated First Tee facilities nationwide; right now there are about 129 in the nation and more being built every day through the efforts of each individual First Tee chapter. When the World Golf Foundation started the First Tee program it was with the clear intention that each chapter would be an independent, non-profit organization created in a community with a large degree of autonomy. With seed money and limited grants from the national organization each local chapter would be responsible for its own operating costs and the cost of building its own facility. The basic notion is that a 3, 6 or 9 short course would be built providing affordable golf for kids and adults. Many First Tee programs that have built facilities have implemented a “limited fee” structure for youths participating in the program, with somewhat higher fees for other golfers and adults to help generate revenues to offset operating costs.

NEIJGA is at a crossroads in its development. It does have not a facility of its own and also needs funds to defray its current operating costs. So here comes the pitch. The NEIJGAhas embarked on its first fund raising campaign and you can help keep it going by becoming a member of the NEIJGA First Tee. A tax-deductible donation of $25 or more will give you a distinctive bag tag and the knowledge that you are helping kids getting started in golf and a leg up in making a mark in society. Of course $25 is a suggested minimum, a greater contribution would be great. But there is another way to increase the effort. The NEIJGA is working on the team approach and is looking for First Tee Team Players. After you have made your own pledge find four other golfers to also become First Tee members. And if you are really dedicated to the goals of the First TEE ask each of them to find four more people to help with a donation.

Golf Chicago! is dedicated to helping the First Tee in North Chicago and last year contributed over $1500 with the intention of quadrupling that figure. Please write a check today to the

NEIJGA and mail it to Ellis Reynolds, Vice-President, NEIJGA, 313 Whyte-gate Ct., Lake Forest, Il Reynolds is also the person to contact for more information on becoming a team player or leader.

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Last Updated: 6/2/02