Start ‘em Young

Golf can be an expensive hobby. Just about any way you slice it, pun intended, weekly trips to the fairways can rack up quite the bill. This has become the fretful realization of my first few weeks in New York. I’ve traded in many summers of working at a course with free golf for working elsewhere and sadly, many fewer free rounds. Age and occupation will do that to you.

It’s enough to make me wonder, however, what it would be like if I had started playing golf earlier. What if instead of tossing me a baseball glove and cleats, Dad had handed me a pitching wedge and sleeve of Titleists? Not that baseball and golf are substitutes (because they certainly can compliment each other), but I wouldn’t mind my handicap being one digit instead of two.

Golf as a youngster could have helped that, but where exactly in the county is “golf as a youngster” possible? There are a number of places that offer golf camps or lessons for juniors. It’s certain they’ll all teach many of the same things: how to chip, putt, full swing, fix a divot, etc. So there might not be much difference between the camps, outside of location. That’s what makes The First Tee program possibly the most intriguing.

Stationed at Peninsula State Park, The First Tee is an eight-week program (starting June 25) that will be led by PGA instructors Pete Mogg and Jason Daubner as well as LPGA instructor Sylvia Ferdon. The commitment isn’t high — the sessions are once a week, on Wednesdays — and neither is the price — just $80 for eight weeks. Just $10 a week is a deal I would have jumped at if I were thinking about junior golf.

The program is known for more than just those figures, though. It’s actually more about life lessons than golf lessons at The First Tee.

“The biggest part of The First Tee Program is not golf but teaching the nine core values of the program: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment,” Mogg said. “For me personally, watching these kids grow will provide the fulfillment of helping to be a part of the growth of the game.”

On top of that, the Park offers a six-hole short course that was designed with youngsters in mind. The longest hole maxes out at just 134 yards while the shortest stretches just 65 yards. Much of The First Tee program will be taught on the tiny course once it opens in mid-July.

At The First Tee, golf is the foundation, but clearly there is much more than an introduction to the game being offered, and for anyone who appreciates the sport, that’s part of what it’s really all about.

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