Golf mentoring program coming to Gig Harbor later this spring

Nonprofit organization to focus on teaching life skills through the game

Staff writerApril 9, 2014 

First Tee program director Ryan Kallenberger, left, gives tips to a young golfer in the program. The will come to the Gig Harbor area this spring.

MATT ENLOE/COURTESY PHOTO

The First Tee, a nonprofit organization that teaches life skills to youngsters through golf, is coming to Gig Harbor this spring.

The organization, which runs six-week programs in the spring and fall, and an eight-week program in the summer for youth ages 7-17, will call Madrona Links Golf Course its home.

The First Tee of South Puget Sound started in 2011 and has been expanding to different areas of Pierce County. The courses focus on nine core values: Honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

“The life skills is what we’re all about,” said Matt Enloe, executive director and founder of The First Tee of South Puget Sound. “The game of golf is a great metaphor and unique game to teach that. Anyone that’s played the game has learned life skills.”

The group leads with a core value during each class, and they discusses how it can be applied to home and school. For example, if the value is integrity, the mentors tell students about how to act when no one is looking. The golf lesson might be to keep your own score honestly, a lesson that can be applied to real life.

Every participant starts out as a “player” and can work their way up through the ranks, to par, birdie, eagle, and then “Ace,” a rank Enloe compared to being an Eagle Scout.

Participants keep a workbook through each level, and they’re evaluated on golf skills and a written test before they can advance in rank.

While it’s nice to see the players improve on the course, Enloe said they are more concerned with the life-skills aspect.

“It comes from the needs we see in the community,” Enloe said. “The national one-in-four dropout rate, and the one-in-three obesity rate. We’re passionate about those things.”

The cost is $80 for the six- or eight-week session. Scholarships are available based on family income needs.

“That’s part of our mission is to make golf as accessible as possible,” Enloe said. “We’re supplementing those costs as a nonprofit.”

Among those costs are equipment and course time. All equipment is provided by The First Tee, and players get a chance to play several times during the program.

As players work their way up through the ranks, they get bag tags, which grant them reduced rates for greens fees and balls, allowing them to play more outside of class, if they choose to do so.

Like most nonprofits, Enloe said the organization is always looking for volunteers and mentors, regardless of their golf skill level.

“We’d love to have passionate volunteers,” Enloe said. “You don’t have to be a great golfer. It’s more if you’re good with the kids than if you’re a good golfer.”

Parents can sign up as volunteers or sign up their kids for the course at www.thefirstteesps.org.

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 jon.manley@gateline.com

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