Whether it’s brown and leathery, black and shiny, or white and dimpled, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us have formed some kind of relationship with a ball – and the game it’s used in.
At The First Tee of Richmond & Chesterfield, the mission is clear: impact the lives of young people by providing facilities and programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through a relationship with a game. In this case, that game is golf.
Incorporated in 1998, Richmond First Tee unites children ages 5 to 17 from diverse backgrounds at its two facilities in downtown Richmond and in Chesterfield. Since the Florida-based nonprofit launched nationally in 1997, the organization has opened over 260 golf-learning facilities around the world, established over 800 affiliate courses that offer access and reduced rates for participants, and introduced golf and its values to over 2.2 million participants.
“Here in Greater Richmond in the past year alone,” says Executive Director Brent Schneider, “over six thousand young people participated in our program offerings, many at our two facilities and many more through Richmond area schools.”
Teaching more than golf fundamentals through its Life Skills curriculum, Schneider says the program was founded on core values such as honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, and confidence .
“The inherent values found in golf can enhance the development of young people in communities across America,” says Schneider.
Participants receive golf training and the Life Skills training as they pass through four certification levels. Viviana Perez, a Dinwiddie High School graduate, reached Eagle certification, the highest level. She now attends the University of Richmond and is a member of the women’s golf team. “I have had access To golf and life opportunities that I would have never had without The First Tee. I am just happy and privileged to be a part of it,” says Viviana.
The Future Leaders Forum, in partnership with The Toro Company, helps participants prepare for higher education, careers, and beyond. Ajoya Speight, 17, recently represented Richmond First Tee at the Future Leaders Forum in Orlando, Florida. Ajoya has attended The First Tee at the Richmond facility for eight years and is now a member of Huguenot High School’s golf team and an academic standout. She has set personal goals of playing golf in college and studying medicine.
Says Schneider, “Young people do not automatically act with integrity or demonstrate sportsmanship. The First Tee Life Skills program teaches these kids a set of skills to allow them to face challenges at home, school, and play in a constructive manner. They learn much more than the game of golf. They learn skills that will help them successfully navigate a much more important course – the game of life.”