The ground hog says we have some winter left, but the rodent’s weather forecast is not slowing down registration for First Tee Upstate’s Spring programs.
“It started a little slow, but it has really picked up in the last few weeks,” said Micheal Pius, the Executive Director of the organization. “We are over 200 and we have seen the biggest increase among girls for our programs around the Upstate,” he added.
The First Tee introduces golf to young people who also learn the values that are part of the game. This year the organization will conduct programs at golf corses and ranges all over the Upstate.
The Spring eight week program is open to young people from age 7 through 18. Classes begin the week of March 15th
Locations for the spring include The Club at Brookstone in Anderson, Cherokee Valley Course & Club in Tigerville, Greer Country Club, The Preserve at Verdae in Greenville, Furman, 3s Greenville, Legacy Pines, Botany Woods, Willow Creek, Woodfin Ridge in Boiling Springs, and Cherokee National in Gaffney.
Registration can be completed on the organization’s website at www.firstteeupstate.org/register . Interested parents can set up an account on the site and then follow the prompts to complete signing up.
The 8-week program costs $100. The organization has some financial aid available to families that can be applied for at registration. There are also some sessions that will be held in Spanish.
Pius is encouraging parents to sign up their young golfers very soon. Classes at some courses are filling up quickly and registration closes on March 1st.
“All newcomers start the program at the Player level. Young golfers work their way up to higher levels as they learn the golf and character lessons we offer. As the kids get a little older and have learned the core values of the program, improving their golf skills becomes an even bigger part of the program,” he said.
One of the young golfers who has been in the Upstate program has received a national honor from The First Tee.
Nelia Leong, from Southside High School in Greenville, has been selected to be a part of an eight member student advisory committee for The First Tee.
“This is a nice honor for Nelia. She is part of this first group that will help the First Tee national program get the perspective of students in the program,” said Pius.
Leong has been in The First Tee program for less than two-years and has risen to the Eagle level. She has used her golf skills to play in the state high school championship.
First Tee Upstate has also launched a program in association with the Els for Autism Foundation. The national program championed by PGA TOUR star Ernie Els is designed to offer golf to children on the Autism Spectrum.
“We will have classes at Three Pines in Woodruff and Willow Creek. Laura Mauer, has specialized in coaching kids on the Spectrum. In the last year many of our coaches have had additional training from the Els for Autism program and we are pleased we can offer this program,” said Pius.
With the significant growth of early registration First Tee Upstate needs some additional support from the community.
The organization needs volunteers and financial support. The pandemic affected the program by limiting some fund raising opportunities and volunteer’s health concerns, but at the same time since golf has been one of the safer activities enrollment keeps growing.
“We appreciate all our volunteers and would like to have more people join us. Our volunteers don’t have to know a lot about golf instead they enjoy supporting kids. Volunteers can help our program on and off the course,” said Pius.
One of First Tee Upstate’s successful fund raising initiatives has been a raffle providing golfers with the opportunities to win an exclusive golf get away.
“With the pandemic we decided to stay closer to home so our raffle prize is a great trip to Hilton Head. The winner will stay and play at Harbor Town and the other Sea Pines courses for three days with a four-some. They will drive to Hilton Head in BMW’s for the week,” he said.
Raffle tickets can be purchased on the First Tee website at www.firstteeupstate.org/2021golfpassport/
Another fund-raising promotion provides a real value for golfers who enjoy playing different courses.
The annual First Tee Passports are again available for upstate golfers. The Passports allow golfers to play up to 60 rounds of golf at discounted prices. The Passports are available at participating golf courses or from First Tee Upstate at www.firstteeupstate.org/2021golfpassport/
Registration will start for the summer programs on March 17th. Classes begin on June 14th at www.firstteeupstate.org/register/