Patriots' Gateway Community
Center, Golf Help Rockford Evolve
This is the second in a
series of stories
celebrating 10 years and $50 million in USGA grants.
By , USGA
Rockford, Ill. - As Jim Flodin and his partner prepared to
play a round of golf, two young men inquired about joining the
twosome. With smiles and self-confidence, the two 12 year
olds extended their hands and introduced themselves as
participants at The First Tee of Greater Rockford.
Coincidentally, the youths had approached the man who had made
golf available to them at a critical time.
|The Patriots' Gateway Community
Center has served as a beacon of hope in southeast Rockford.
Four years ago, this would not have happened in Rockford,
Ill. In a neighborhood where crime, gangs, prostitution and
unemployment were the norm, kids never thought about making tee
times. The word 'survival' was more apropos in this
community. However, Flodin had a vision that would change
Rockford's perception - one swing at a time.
Flodin started as a consultant for the Patriots' Gateway
Community Center. It's there that community members provide
life-enriching opportunities for those who live, work, play and
learn in southeast Rockford.
When a conversation focused on golf a few years ago, the
Center asked Flodin to lead the initiative, which in turn led to
forming The First Tee of Greater Rockford. He drew up plans
and organized fundraisers, and with the support of the USGA,
built a learning facility directly across the street from the
Located on a piece of land that was previously occupied by 13
houses, the facility became a safe haven for the area. The
First Tee of Greater Rockford now hosts 600 kids and their
community of instructors and volunteers throughout the
"The difference is that people feel safe to be in the
neighborhood; people are rebuilding and remodeling homes,"
said Flodin. "It's a neighborhood now where you can walk
and play outside. People bought into the center and into
golf. They look after the golf course and the neighborhood
Instead of a neglected neighborhood that no one wants to be a
part of, the facility draws attention from people who ordinarily
would not visit this area of Rockford. They drive by, pull
up next to the facility and peek over the fences to see the
beauty of the intangible and tangible, whether that is found in a
smile or the freshly mown grass.
"Golf is unique to most of these people," said
Flodin. "They've heard about basketball or football;
they've never had a dream of going out to play golf at the
local courses or country clubs, and they have that desire to play
Kids aren't just learning a new game; they are learning a
new lifestyle. The First Tee's nine core values have
been implemented in every program taught at the community
center. As a result, kids involved in the programs have
improved their school attendance records to 92 percent.
Beyond the kids, volunteerism in the community has already
tripled since the golf program started.
Because of the golf facility's success, more programs are
evolving at Patriots' Gateway. Plans are underway for
the development of batting cages and a skate park on the same
block. Without Flodin's vision, these opportunities would not
When talking with Flodin about his involvement in this
project, one learns what true passion can feel like. With
every mention of the golf program, his emotion and enthusiasm
could not be more evident.
"The only thing I can say is that over here,
Patriots' Gateway is a special place," he said.
"And I feel that way from the bottom of my heart."
Amanda Wilson is a First-Year Fellow in the USGA Grants
Initiative and Fellowship office. For more information
about Patriot'sGatewayCommunity Center, please contact her via e-mail at
or by phone at(719) 471-4810, ext. 22.