The First Tee

Contributed photo

PRINCETON — The First Tee National School Program helps students develop an appreciation for the positive personal and social values associated with golf. This spring, that curriculum began in Mercer County Schools.
All 17 elementary schools in Mercer County were introduced to the basic skills of golf along with character and health education in their physical education programs.
Taught by physical educators using safe lesson plans provided in The First Tee National School Program, these health activities were recently added for students to learn about physical, social and emotional wellness.
"This program will offer a brand-new experience for our students," Matt Bailey, Physical Education teacher at Mercer and Melrose Elementary Schools in Mercer County said in a press release. "Most of them would never have the opportunity to learn or practice golf. Not only will the program benefit our elementary students it builds a foundation for our middle school and high school programs."
The June Oblinger Shott Foundation provided the funding for the program to be brought to Mercer County. The foundation helps fund programs that focus on children and athletics.
"We are thankful to be able to provide the opportunity to teach the skills and values of The First Tee National School Program,” Kelli Stanley, Principal of Mercer Elementary School said in a press release. "Plus, it is extremely beneficial that they are learning the necessary skills to promote lifelong physical fitness through an activity such as golf."
The First Tee National Program is a nationwide program in more than 10,000 schools in 1,400 school districts. In W.Va., there are currently a total of 25 counties and 122 schools offering the program. The curriculum was developed by The First Tee along with leading experts in physical education and positive youth development. The lesson plans include The First Tee Nine Healthy Habits, which were developed in partnership with the ANNIKA Foundation and Florida Hospital for Children.
"Our nine core values create a bridge to life, we talk about respect on the golf course, we then talk about how we can respect teachers, parents and friends," Ashley Hamilton, Director of The First Tee of West Virginia said. "We bring it into settings so they can see that the fundamental core values of golf can be brought to real life."
The First Tee National School Program was founded in 2004 and helps students develop an appreciation for the positive, personal and social values associated with golf.
"The first tee was started in 1997, and then in 2004, the national school program was started. We bring the sport of golf and our core values in elementary schools," Hamilton said. "Our home office is in St. Augustine, Fla. and it started because the founders asked, 'why don't more kids play golf?"
Hamilton's chapter of The First Tee began in Beckley, W.Va. and has spread state-wide. She said Mercer County was excited to have the program.
"They were really interested in having the program, it will benefit the golf teams but also our values and mission of the program to create better citizens wherever we are and have that bleed into their adult lives," Hamilton said.
— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice