First Tee Helps Youth Build Life Skills


First Tee Four Corners brings life skills and character values to young people through the game of golf. By Donna Hewett. Sponsored by Traegers and Boon’s Family Thai Barbecue

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Junior golf is exploding. Thanks in part to the pandemic and youth organizations like First Tee-Four Corners in Kirtland, New Mexico. First Tee not only introduces the game of golf to local young people, it enriches their inner world. By fostering core values like integrity and perseverance through hard work and discipline on the golf course. You're watching The Local News Network brought to you by Traegers and Boon's Family Thai Barbecue. I'm Wendy Graham-Settle. The ancient game of golf has never been more popular in the Four Corners area, especially among the young set.

Every program that we have will probably have six to 800 kids. We have program locations here in Kirtland and in Farmington and in Durango, at Hillcrest and also at Cortez. And everyone's junior golf program is growing, especially with COVID. Golf has sort of become one of those things that everybody has found out that they can do without limitations being outside and socially distanced. So, golf is growing and our programs are just overflowing. So, it's great.

Golf is a unique sport with a long tradition of etiquette that teaches us how to behave towards ourselves and others. And impart strength and truthfulness during adversity, and instructs self-reliance.

You know, I think the biggest thing that the First Tee teaches is, you know, not only golf, golf is our tool, is our hook. But, it's the nine core values. And when you have a way to talk about things like judgment and confidence and integrity and honesty with a six year old or a seven year old using golf as kind of the vernacular to bring those points home, it's really a powerful tool. And we see it in the kids out here all the time, that they love to play golf. They're learning these nine core values. They're learning goal setting and life skills like that. And they don't even know it because they're having fun.

Former director Yost has been with the First Tee organization for 20 years. Otherwise known as coach Tom, he sees the kind of changes kids go through firsthand.

A lot of attitude changes. You know, I think that they start out struggling and it's not as much fun, but as they progress and they get better at it, they like it a lot more. They like being outside. They like hanging out with their friends. So, golf becomes cool. And when they get better, as they get better, golf becomes more fun.

First Tee emerged in 1997 as a partnership among leading golf organizations, including the PGA tour, the LPGA and the Masters Tournament Foundation. The national nonprofit makes golf affordable and accessible for children from all walks of life. At more than 150 chapters worldwide. The life skills 18 year old First Tee graduate and assistant coach Marion Caldwell has learned over the years at Riverview Golf Course in Kirtland, changed her life.

I have achieved making lots of friends. Honestly, that's what's most important to me. Like, the community I've built. It's amazing. I was not naturally social when I was younger. And the First Tee really helped me come out of my shell. Learn how to start conversations and then continue conversations.

Caldwell first picked up a golf club at the tender age of nine. A left-handed men's club at that. She recently received a $20,000 scholarship from First Tee-Four Corners to attend Dartmouth College this fall. For her, hitting the golf ball was instant love.

Never gets old. You can literally never play golf perfectly. So, there's always something new to try. There's always a new challenge. There's no way for it to get old or boring. There's always something new to learn. So, I just never got tired of it because it's literally impossible to master. You can't get all holes in one, that would be a perfect score. So, it's almost like the impossibility of it that makes me keep coming back. The fact that I can always do better because perfection is impossible.

First Tee-Four Corners offers junior golf tournaments and afterschool and in-school programs all summer and fall. To schedule your child for lessons or to volunteer or donate equipment, go to Thanks for watching this edition of The Local News Network, I'm Wendy Graham-Settle.


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