BREC’s First Tee program teaches youth about golf, life

It all started with a simple question: Why don’t more kids play golf?

To help provide an answer to that question, a partnership was formed in 1997 among the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, the PGA Tour and the United States Golf Association. The partnership, named The First Tee, started as a way to bring an affordable junior golf program to youngsters and communities.

Soon after its debut, organizers of The First Tee realized that blending rules of the game with life and leadership skills could teach kids and teens not just about playing golf, but they could learn important values lessons as well. The program includes boys and girls and encourages ethnic diversity.

The organization is now active in all 50 states and BREC hosts a number of First Tee events throughout the Baton Rouge region, including Beaver Creek in Zachary and J.S. Clark Park in Baker along with City Park, Howell Park, Webb Park and Santa Maria.

Children ages 7 through 18 progress through the different levels by demonstrating The First Tee’s nine core values, life and golf skills and pass assessment tests. The nine core values are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. In addition, there’s a focus on developing the physical, emotional and social aspects of growing up with healthy habits.

A curriculum based on 18 lesson plans developed by The First Tee introduces youth to golf through its resemblance to other sports. They learn basics starting with golf terminology and work through various aspects of the game.

All participants, regardless of age, start at the “player” level and advance until they complete the ace level.

The player level requires a minimum age of 7 and students learn the basics of the game of golf and The First Tee’s Code of Conduct. “Par” has a recommended minimum age of 9 and focuses on interpersonal and self-management skills on and off the golf course. “Birdie,” with a minimum age of 11, emphasizes goal-setting and making goals a reality. “Eagle,” recommended for a minimum age of 13, teaches resiliency, conflict resolution and planning skills. Finally, “Ace” requires a minimum age of 14 or entering the ninth grade and puts all the skills together with a focus on setting goals, career education and giving back to the community.

The First Tee coaches are volunteers and are trained to create positive relations that inspire youngsters in different ways. The ultimate goal is to teach confidence, respect and the value of giving back to the community.

A new parent orientation sponsored by BREC will be from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. March 13 at J.S. Clark Park. Clark Park will host Par/Birdie events on Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Player events on Wednesdays at the same times.

BREC has added Beaver Creek as a new location this year, with events beginning March 20 and taking place each Monday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Beside volunteering to be a First Tee coach, people are invited to donate used golf equipment or make financial charitable donations to the local organization.

For more information or to register, visit www.thefirstteebrp.org or call (225) 774-5946.

Send sports news, photos and stats to Howard Arceneaux at harceneaux@theadvocate.com.