The First Tee Upstate now truly is the First Tee “of” the Upstate.
The program designed to introduce youngsters to golf and develop the nine core values associated with the game will now be available at The Club at Brookstone and in Anderson District 5 schools.
“Now with Anderson joining Greenville, Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties, we can bring our program to all the kids in our area,” said Michael Pius, the Executive Director of the Upstate First Tee.
The expansion of the program to Anderson came about because a grandfather wanted his grandson to be part of the program without driving to Greenville.
“One of our members, Dave Masters, approached me to see if we would be interested in being part of the First Tee,” said Brookstone general manager and head PGA Professional Clint Wright. “I knew about the First Tee and with our facilities here it seemed like a natural fit,” he added.
In addition of The First Tee to Brookstone, Anderson School District 5 also got involved with a grant for their PE programs.
Using The First Tee National School Program and “Short Golf” equipment, 11 area elementary schools and as many as 5,000 kids will benefit from the expansion into Anderson.
“Our First Tee program for physical education teachers helps them meet one of the national standards for a type of instruction,” said Pius.
While the programs in the schools are for K – 5th grade students, the program at Brookstone will be available for kids from 7 to 18 years of age.
“When you look at our practice facilities it easy to see why we are a good fit. We have a great driving range with our short game area and putting green all in the same place. It will make the instruction flow better and keep everyone in sight,” said Wright.
The First Tee summer programs are wrapping up and Pius expects the Brookstone program to be in operation to start next spring.
“We have a lot of work to do to get everything in place. We need to find volunteers and coaches, get them trained in The First Tee operation and get the word out that we are open in Anderson,” said Pius.
Having some golf knowledge is helpful, but having an interest in helping kids is more important.
Brookstone joins nine other courses and golf facilities hosting the Upstate program.
Andrew Harvey, the PGA Apprentice at Brookstone will head up the program with help from Wright.
“I love working with kids. I’m looking forward to learning more about The First Tee and the elements that make it so successful in developing golf and life skills in young golfers,” said Harvey.
Wright, like most golf professionals, is always encouraging the development of young golfers for the future of the game.
“I know being involved with The First Tee is going to be good exposure for Brookstone, but it also going to help all the other golf clubs in the area,” he said.
If the number of kids involved in the Anderson program grows at the rate of growth seen in Greenville and Spartanburg there will be a need for future expansion.
“Our program grew by 47% last year and we expect the growth to continue. Now that we cover the entire Upstate, we hope we can interest some additional sponsors to support the program,” said Pius.
The introduction of The First Tee into Anderson is being funded in part by proceeds from The First Tee of the Upstate’s Annual Kentucky Derby Viewing Party.
Golf balls will be sold and marked for each entrant. They will all be dropped on a green from the top of a fire truck’s extended ladder.
The grand prize is up to $5,000 in cash for the ball that ends up in the hole. The rest of the proceeds from the sale will help jump start the program in Anderson.
The timing of adding Anderson to the Upstate First Tee comes at a time when golf is making a comeback.
After a lengthy slowdown caused by the recession 10 years ago golf is growing again.
“The National Golf Foundation reported that golf grew for the first time in almost 14 years. With the addition of our program in Anderson and our other facilities, we are ready to help the game grow even more,” concluded Pius.