Teeing Up Success in Life Through Golf

A local nonprofit teaches kids the game of life through the game of golf.

The First Tee of the Tri-Valley teaches kids how to be good citizens while they learn how to master the greens.

"While we're teaching them this fun game, we're really teaching them how to live their lives and how to become respectful citizens of this world," Laura Hadley, office manager for the local First Tee chapter, said. "Our mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf."

The First Tee of the Tri-Valley is a local chapter of the international The First Tee nonprofit group. The local chapter was launched in 2004 when the Jetter family took over ownership of the Pleasanton Golf Center, where The First Tee is based.

"They wanted to bring outreach to their new business," Hadley said of the impetus for starting a local chapter. "The more we learned about (The First Tee), the more we wanted to become a chapter."

The First Tee is targeted at kids ages 5 through 17. While anyone can take part, the focus is on low-income and disadvantaged youth who could benefit most from the life lessons learned through the program.

"There are nine healthy habits that have to do with being healthy physically, socially and emotionally," Hadley noted. "We ask the P.E. teachers if they know of any kids who could benefit from this program. We reach out to those kids."

Students who need support get full or partial scholarships to ensure nobody is turned away from the program. All equipment is provided by The First Tee. Kids hone their golf skills through eight-week classes, seasonal camps and tournaments.

The First Tee is eager to spread the word to potential corporate sponsors in the area. Companies can get involved by financially supporting the program, while employees can sign on as volunteers. Golf enthusiasts can be trained to be coaches or assistant coaches.

"We know corporations don't have an endless amount of money," Hadley said. "They all have a vision of how they want to help. What I want them to know is that the First Tee fits into a lot of those buckets. If they're focused on youth, we're a good organization for them. If they're focused on education, the things we teach these kids help them in the classroom, whether it's self-control or respect. If they're focused on health, we have the kids outside enjoying time with their friends, but we're also focusing on good eating habits and getting enough sleep and choosing good friends."

The First Tee hosts five major fundraisers throughout the year, giving companies and employees another great avenue for getting involved.

"The fees definitely help, but it costs us more (to offer the program) than we charge," she noted. "Even the people who aren't on scholarships are being subsidized by the grants we receive. Most of the money comes in through fundraising."

The Pleasanton Golf Center organizes corporate golf leagues as team builders and also as a convenient way for the center to spread the word about The First Tee.

"During that time, we could educate them about what's going on with First Tee and introduce them to our First Tee kids," she said.

The local chapter reaches more than 700 kids a year through its classes and camps, plus another 700 through outreach programs. More than 12,000 other students learn golf and life skills through The First Tee program offered through P.E. in many East Bay schools.

"We want corporations to understand our program and how many kids we're helping," Hadley said. "(Their support) is not just paying for a kid in Pleasanton to play golf. It's really much more than that. We're inclusive. We have kids with different disabilities or whatever they're dealing with socially or physically. What they leave with is not just golf skills, but how the etiquette of golf translates to life."

Learn more about The First Tee of the Tri-Valley at thefirstteetrivalley.org .

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