First Tee of Greater Charleston teaches youth golf and life skills

Cooper Tillman and Dante Washington congratulate each other after finishing a hole during a First Tee of Greater Charleston tournament. Photo provided.

Parents looking for a way to improve their children’s social skills and grades might do well to consider enrolling their youngster in an upcoming First Tee of Greater Charleston program.

More than 9,000 youngsters have been through the local First Tee program, including 7,700 who have come through a public school version taught through physical education classes. The program is in 23 area elementary schools, 21 of which are classified as Title I (low income) schools.

Statistics reflect that First Tee goals are being met. Ninety-eight percent of local parents say the program has positively influenced their child’s life, and a large majority say their child’s communication skills and confidence have improved. One in three say there has been a positive change in grades.

Ben Grandy, executive director of the First Tee of Charleston, tells of one youngster who has been with the program for four years and helped spearhead the first golf team at Stall High School. He tells of another youngster with autism who has emerged from his shell and frequently plays golf with total strangers.

First Tee is a national effort to grow participation in golf begun by representatives of the PGA Tour, PGA of America, LPGA, U.S. Golf Association and the Masters. The program not only teaches golf skills, but life skills through its Nine Core Values — honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

Matt Everson, president of the First Tee of Greater Charleston, said the program is having a positive impact.

“I think youth can learn a lot about life through the game of golf,” Everson said.

First Tee has five progressive program levels — Player, Par, Birdie, Eagle and Ace.

The Player level is an introduction to the game and program and teaches something as basic as getting from one point to another on the golf course. As the participants progress, they learn about the golf swing and areas such as setting goals or community interaction. There also are opportunities to play.