SALT LAKE CITY — The First Tee is a national organization with more than 200 chapters that has impacted the lives of some 5 million young people over the past 13 years by providing educational programs that promote life-enhancing values through the game of golf.
The First Tee is being launched in Utah, or rather re-launched, with a new board of directors headed by executive director Tim Howells. The new program was kicked off Tuesday night with a dinner at the Salt Lake Country Club, with national executive director Joe Louis Barrow in attendance.
"We're excited to be in Utah, launching the First Tee of Utah," said Barrow, who is the son of legendary boxer Joe Louis. "We are a youth development organization that uses golf as a platform to reach youth. We want to teach them to have goals, trust, judgment and to have confidence in themselves. The more young people we can reach, the more impact we can have on society."
The First Tee partners with school districts and elementary schools as well as youth and recreation centers. Besides the 200 chapters in 700 locations, the First Tee program is also present at 120 military installations.
"Golf is really secondary," said Howells, the former general manager of the Utah Jazz. "The first priority is building kids' values and ethics to provide a vehicle to change a lot of kids' lives, particularly disadvantaged kids."
The First Tee teaches nine core values — honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
Louis acknowledged that a previous attempt of the First Tee program in Utah fizzled out, but he says that is not unique to Utah and it has happened in other places around the country. He said the main thing is that First Tee is being re-constituted with a "re-energized" group that has the support of the local PGA Section, the Utah Golf Association and others.
Howells believes the First Tee will be successful because of the funds that have already been committed by local businesses and donors.
"It's an ongoing challenge, but we have already introduced First Tee into the community," Howells said.
While First Tee programs will be instituted throughout the state, the primary First Tee facilities in Utah will be located at Golf in the Round and Central Valley Golf Course, which are located at 33rd South and 6th West.