For The Kids: USGA's The First Tee
January 4, 2006
By , USGA
Far Hills, N.J. -- The announcement came eight years ago at a
highly recognizable New York City location. PGA Tour Commissioner
Tim Finchem as well as former U.S. President George Bush, Earl
Woods (Tiger's father), USGA President Judy Bell, 1982 U.S.
Open champion Tom Watson and 1981 U.S. Women's Open winner Pat
Bradley attended. Dignitaries from New York, including Mayor Rudy
Gulliani, also came.
So what was all the hoopla in Central Park about? Why would all
these luminaries gather for breakfast at the world-renowned Tavern
on the Green restaurant and dinner at the Plaza Hotel? Why did they
all jump on a private plane the next day to make another
announcement in Detroit, then make another presentation at a
gathering in ?
|Former USGA President Judy Bell, above, and
current USGA Executive Director David Fay were two key figures
instrumental in the Association's financial assistance to
The First Tee program. (USGA Photo Archives)|
The World Golf Foundation, an organization comprised of all the
allied associations including the USGA, had decided to create a
junior initiative that would offer affordable access to those
individuals who might not otherwise have the opportunity to be
exposed to golf. The goal was to build 100 golf training facilities
by the year 2000. The facilities could be three, six or nine holes,
but had to include a practice area.
With all the allied golf associations on board, The First Tee
initiative appeared to be a slam dunk.
The USGA didn't hesitate to become involved. The First
Tee's mission matched the USGA Foundation's philosophy of
providing golf opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
So at the 1997 October meeting of the Grants Committee in Colorado
Springs, Colo., they decided to commit $3 million over the next
three years to The First Tee. It was all part of the USGA's
"For the Good of the Game" initiative to pledge $50
million over a 10-year period to provide affordable access to
disadvantaged youth and to those players with disabilities.
And when it came to The First Tee, the USGA stepped into the
batter's box first.
"We were the first organization to step up to the
microphone," said Bell, who is now the Association's
consulting director for the Grants Initiative and Fellowship
The other allied associations - the PGA Tour, PGA of America, LPGA
and Augusta National Golf Club -- were also part of the initial
support team. However, when The First Tee has needed financial
support, the USGA has been the leader in the clubhouse and remains
so today. While the PGA Tour has certainly been a significant
contributor ($14.6 million), the USGA has donated more than $16.5
million, $12.25 million of which has been given directly to
individual chapters or facilities through various grants.
TFT also has a total of 31 trustees who support the organization
through corporate or personal donations.
Submit application before grant meeting deadline.
|The First Tee chapters that apply for USGA grants
are processed through the grant cycle just like any other
non-profit organizations. The cycle looks like
USGA Fellows conduct site visits and helps applicant with
paper work and prepares an executive summary.
USGA Grants Committee meets three times a year.
USGA Fellows present applications in their region to the
USGA Grants Committee recommends the amount to be given, the
length of the grant as well as the terms such as matching grant,
challenge grants or an outright grant. Any special requirements
are included in the official letter and the terms and
Plans are in motion for a check presentation usually given by
a USGA volunteer and possibly a media release.
Next phase is compliance. USGA Fellows are in touch every
month of USGA Grant with the point person or local champion of
each active grant in their region. The contact is made by a site
visit, e-mail or phone.
A final report from the grant recipient is due 15 days after
the end of the grant term.
The initial $3 million USGA pledge - $1 million in each of the
first three years - was used to assist in the start-up and
organization of the program. But after the first year, the national
grants were targeted for chapters and not overhead costs. Over the
past five years, the USGA has given $250,000 annually to the
national organization, while continuing to fund individual chapters
or facilities as grant requests come into the office in Colorado
Those dollars are used to construct facilities (practice ranges,
short course, putting greens, etc.), and fund instruction as well
as playing opportunities for the participants.
"The First Tee would not have been possible without the
support of the Oversight Partners, especially that of the
USGA," said Finchem. "Not only did the USGA support
our start-up efforts, but their independent support of The First
Tee Chapters has proved invaluable to their success. The
grants provided to The First Tee by the USGA have truly been for
the good of the game."
So far, USGA monies have helped fund 126 The First Tee chapters.
That represents 71 percent of the total number of The First Tee
chapters in existence. In some cases, these grants were awarded
prior to the perspective organizations or programs becoming The
First Tee chapters.
The First Tee currently has 225 facilities. of The First Tee said
that figure should reach 250-plus by the end of 2005.
"All of The First Tee chapters operate
independently," said Bell. "The USGA Grants Committee
evaluates each request based on need and the merits of the chapter
applying. We have a finite number of dollars to give each year and
we try to give it to those organizations that have the best
potential to bring the game to those who might not have the
opportunity to play."
In the last four years, a total of $7.16 million has been awarded
to The First Tee chapters through USGA grants.
But the true measure of any such initiative is individual success
stories along with healthy growth. The First Tee has gone from just
a handful of chapters to 209 in 41 states and four countries. An
estimated 450,000 kids participated in TFT programs in 2005.
The First Tee also is involved in bringing the game to public
school physical education classes. Participation in TFT National
School programs has risen from 50,000 students in 130 schools in
eight communities in 2003-04 to 300,000 students in 800 schools in
more than 50 communities this academic year.
Perhaps one of the best examples of a TFT chapter is The First
Tee of Greater Sacramento, formerly known as SAY-Golf, in
Sacramento, Calif., headed by and former USGA Women's Committee
volunteer Karen Dedman. Today, The First Tee of Greater Sacramento
serves more than 5,000 junior golfers annually and was honored at
the 2005 National The First Tee Annual Meeting as the model for
The Little Linker pre-teen junior program was the first of the 25
TFTGS programs to receive a grant from the USGA in 1983 ($5,000).
Since that time, TFTGS and SAY-Golf were granted funds for the
California Eagle Special Olympics Program (1985), the Swing Club
for the Blind, Project Gain and the American Stroke Association
Under The First Tee of Greater Sacramento umbrella, more than 400
citizens with disabilities are served annually. And the USGA
remains the largest contributor to TFTGS with grants totaling
$307,000 since that first check 22 years ago. Since 1983, SAY-Golf
and TFTGS has served 50,000 junior golfers.
"Our relationship with the USGA is invaluable," said
Dedman, president of the TFTGS. "We are continually grateful
to the USGA for its confidence in us to serve our community needs.
This support has enabled us to continue to work for the youth and
disabled, and to continually look at new ways in which to help our
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