Some 18 years ago a movement was underfoot to bring The First Tee to Indianapolis. Meetings were held, committees were formed, a home- site was selected. Talks eventually stalled and the quest to have a First Tee influence in Indianapolis was put on hold.
Fast forward to 2009. A First Tee chapter was finally formed in Indianapolis, becoming the third First Tee Chapter in the state of Indiana. The First Tee of Indianapolis did an excellent job of getting The First Tee’s National Schools Program into Indianapolis area schools. Through the NSP program, the First Tee of Indianapolis was reaching over 8,000 kids in 22 IPS elementary schools.
The future for The First Tee of Indianapolis however was very much in doubt. Due to limited sources of funding and an uncertain financial future, an effort was spearheaded by then First Tee board member Alice Dye, to have the Indianapolis First Tee Chapter come under the Indiana Golf Foundation Umbrella.
Formed in 1994 with an annual operating budget of $800,000, the Foundation was viewed as the organization that could provide long term sustainability to The First Tee and offer growth opportunities that could potentially reach tens of thousands of kids in Indiana.
That process was completed in late 2011. The name and geographic scope of the chapter were changed to The First Tee of Central Indiana and a new plan was developed. Within months of this transition taking place, a new movement was underway to once again expand the reach and scope of The First Tee in Indiana.
However long it took to begin offering First Tee programming in Indianapolis, it was now on the fast track to not only reaching central Indiana youth but those interested in golf throughout the state of Indiana.
As of December 2012, The First Tee of Indiana now has the ability to offer First Tee programming to kids from Evansville to South Bend and Terre Haute to Richmond and all communities in between.
The mission of The First Tee is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. That mission fit perfectly into the Foundation’s Mission of “Teaching Life Lessons Through the Game of Golf” making the decision to pull The First Tee under the Foundation’s administration an easy decision.
The First Tee (www.thefirsttee.org) is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in St. Augustine, Fla., at World Golf Village, home of the World Golf Hall of Fame. More specifically, it is an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people. Through after school and in school programs, it helps to shape the lives of young people from all walks of life by reinforcing values like integrity, respect and perseverance through the game of golf. And it’s making a difference. Research-proven programs are having a positive impact on participants, their families and their communities.
• 6.5 million participants reached since 1997
• 10,000 volunteers actively engaged
• 5,100 elementary schools offering The First Tee National School Program
during the 2012-2013 school year
• 50 U.S. states offering The First Tee programming
• 4 international locations offering The First Tee programming
Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has introduced the game of golf and its values to 4.7 million participants and students in 48 states and five international locations – Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore. There are currently 196 First Tee chapters.
The First Tee was founded and is supported by golf's major organizations, including:
• Masters Tournament
• The PGA of America
• PGA Tour
• United States Golf Association (USGA)
• Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA)
In addition, former President George W. Bush serves as Honorary Chair. He succeeds his father, former President George H. W. Bush, who served as The First Tee’s honorary chair since the organization’s inception in 1997 and shifted to an honorary chair emeritus role.
The First Tee curriculum focuses on Nine Core Values that are inherent to the game of golf; Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgment. These Nine Core Values are engrained in The First Tee curriculum making First Tee programs more about turning out well rounded individuals than accomplished golfers.
The opportunities for reaching thousands of Indiana youth are numerous. Moving forward, The First Tee of Indiana will look to expand the number of youth it reaches by adding affiliate sites around the state in addition to the programming being offered in the Indianapolis metropolitan area.
Currently an affiliate site in Richmond is reaching over 2,000 kids through the NSP and another 200 in summer programs. An affiliate site in South Bend/Elkhart (Michiana) has just been added and a NSP will be offered beginning in the fall of 2013.
Future plans call for affiliate sites to be added in 2013 in Bloomington, Columbus and Orange and Dubois Counties (South Central). Potential plans for 2014 include expansion into the Evansville, Valparaiso, Terre Haute and Lafayette markets. Within the next two years as many as 40,000 elementary school students could be part of First Tee programs in their elementary schools.
The First Tee of Indianapolis accomplished some great things in the first couple of years of existence with the National Schools Program. The goal moving forward is to get The First Tee programs into more schools throughout Indiana and ultimately to look for more on-course opportunities for the kids. By coming under the Foundation umbrella there is tremendous growth potential for The First Tee in Indiana.
Those sentiments were echoed by Kent Knorr, manager of golf course operations for Indy Parks and Recreation.
"Under the leadership of the Indiana Golf Foundation the opportunity for continued success is greatly increased," said Knorr. "This transition will give The First Tee the best opportunity for growth not only at our Indy Parks Golf Courses, but also throughout Indiana."
"I am very excited for the youth in Central Indiana," said Al Arrigoni, Associate Director of Mid – South Region Affairs for The First Tee. "The First Tee is committed to the success of young people by introducing the game and its positive inherent values. The Indiana Golf Foundation has at its core a great passion for the game and is the undisputable leader of the game in Indiana. The IGF Board, along with Mike David and his staff have all been a wonderful group committed to promoting the game and its positive inherent values making the collaborative effort a hole-in-one for Indiana," added Arrigoni.
While it took some time for The First Tee to land in Indianapolis and eventually to become a statewide program, it is now making up for lost time.