Commemorating a 25-year partnership with a focus on growing the game, the USGA has continued its investment in First Tee by awarding IDEA grants to 25 chapters across America.
The USGA’s IDEA Grant Program delivers direct funding to community-based programs that break down barriers to participation in golf and First Tee’s character-building programs, improving pathways to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. In 2022, 25 chapters — from Massachusetts to California — were awarded up to $25,000 each to provide transportation, hire diverse coaches, train volunteers and build programs in diverse communities, among other activities.
Totaling $325,000 in 2022, the USGA’s investment in First Tee is the latest demonstration of its long-standing commitment to ensuring recreational golf continues to thrive. What started as a $3 million, three-year commitment by the USGA as a founding partner in 1997 has helped underpin First Tee’s ability to reach more than 2 million youth annually.
“This year’s IDEA grants are the latest milestone that reflect significant progress made to date in partnership with First Tee,” said Mike Whan, CEO of the USGA. “The best way to introduce youth to the game is by meeting them where they are in their communities, and we are going to continue to drive resources toward the local level to ensure a more accessible and inclusive game for generations to come.”
“The USGA’s support is a game changer for the communities that we serve,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “With these grants, our chapters are opening the door to even more youth, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities, to explore the possibilities in golf and beyond as they build their character and life lessons through the game.”
First Tee was founded in 1997 through the leadership of five golf organizations, aimed at making golf more affordable and accessible in the United States through a national grassroots program. As the first programs were being developed, First Tee began an intentional effort to seamlessly integrate the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, creating learning experiences that build inner strength, self-confidence and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do. Many alumni continue to play and work in the game, inspiring the next generation.
As part of more than 25 years of substantial growth that led to the establishment of 150 First Tee chapters with more than 1,400 program locations in communities across America, the USGA’s targeted support has helped First Tee drive greater equity among underrepresented youth to access golf. The IDEA grants, launched in 2021, fund innovative initiatives for golfers with disabilities, those in Spanish-speaking communities, Indigenous people and at-risk students, among others.
First Tee is focused on increasing diverse participation year over year through many strategies, including hiring and training diverse coaches and implementing the First Tee School Program in Title 1 schools. The efforts are contributing to the diversification of the sport: Since 1997, there has been a 25 percent increase in non-Caucasian golfers, many of whom entered the game through First Tee.