March is when the days are getting longer and the grass gets greener. So, take the golf clubs out of the closet, clean up the irons and prepare to hit the fairways.
And, if you’re a youth golfer, no better time than to join The First Tee of Roanoke Valley to improve your game and your life.
The First Tee is an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people. Through after school and in-school programs, they shape the lives of young people from all walks of life by reinforcing values through the game of golf.
Golf is unique from other sports because players learn values like honesty and responsibility by calling penalties on themselves and reporting their own scores. The sport is a perfect platform for helping young people develop character because just like life, players experience the highs and lows of the game.
By participating in The First Tee, young people are introduced to its nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgement. These values are incorporated throughout the program and parents are encouraged to reinforce these behaviors by talking about them, what they mean and what these behaviors can look like at home.
At The First Tee of Roanoke Valley, good golfers make for better people. Regardless of your experience and ability at the game of golf, The First Tee welcomes all ages, boys and girls, from 5 to 18 to join their programs.
The 2018 schedule for classes at The First Tee of Roanoke Valley has been posted on its website. Spring classes start in mid-March. Classes generally follow the national age standards where 7 is the minimum age for PLAYer, age 9 for PAR, age 11 for BIRDIE and age 13 for EAGLE. Children ages 5-7 are eligible for First Tee Roanoke’s special chapter program, Tiger Paws.
The Chapters provide access to clubs and balls, and there is no need for special golf attire. Coaches are trained in positive youth development, meaning they are experts in making young people feel comfortable and assure they have a positive, non-intimidating experience. At The First Tee there are no worries about financial concerns. Chapters offer full scholarships or reduced fee programs for those with financial need.
The First Tee of Roanoke Valley’s main instructional facility is located on Densmore Rd. in Northwest Roanoke, adjacent to Roanoke Country Club. Exceptional facilities, including covered tee areas, a putting green, a simulated golf room for winter practice and a clubhouse for teaching make for an enjoyable learning experience with teachers led by head instructor Bill Rader.
“We start classes in March and we’ll have fun with week-long camps in the summer and our PGA Junior League,” Rader said in a recent interview. “The junior league pits 3-man teams, with two players rotating during the actual captain’s choice play. This is for ages 7-13 and with the format, there’s no pressure on anyone. Players learn to rake the traps, hold the pin and learn the etiquette of the game. We’ll be playing at Hidden Valley, Hunting Hills, Blacksburg Country Club, Hanging Rock and Roanoke Country Club.”
The First Tee of Roanoke Valley also conducts classes through area school physical education programs in Roanoke, Franklin County and Rockbridge County. This year First Tee will be opening up classes at Westlake Golf Club at Smith Mountain Lake, Vista Links Golf Course in Rockbridge County and Salem Municipal Golf Course.
Research shows 90% of The First Tee alumni consider themselves lifelong golfers and credit The First Tee for improving their golf skills. Likewise, the long-term benefit of girls participating in sports, such as golf, goes beyond the physical and emotional. Playing organized sports as a young female helps create better business women.
The First Tee of Roanoke also provides additional opportunities to its members which are unparalleled. In mid-February First Tee Roanoke members Ross Funderburke and Andrew Withers, both students at Hidden Valley High School, headed to Naples, Florida to play in the 2018 Golf to Paradise-First Tee Champions Tour Challenge.
The two finished second in the 3-round format of scramble, modified alternate shot and best ball, the third straight year the participants from First Tee of Roanoke Valley had taken the runner-up spot. This year’s First Tee players also enjoyed clinics by the pros, including one on the driving range conducted by Fred Funk, the winner of 29 professional events.
May 18-20 brings the 35th annual Scott Robertson Memorial Junior Golf Tournament presented by BB&T at Roanoke Country Club. The public is invited to come out and watch the future stars of the game, many of whom have gone on to have stellar careers on the LPGA and PGA Tours.
The Greenbrier Classic PGA stop in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia gets started the first week of July where First Tee Chapters from Roanoke and West Virginia have historically joined PGA pros for a special day filled with exceptional activities.
The Delta Dental State Open of Virginia Youth Day on July 18 precedes the 3-round state championship July 19-21 at Ballyhack Golf Club in Roanoke, where The First Tee Roanoke has been a major beneficiary for several years, including a check for $20,000 last year.
The 7th annual Parent Child Golf Tournament takes place September 22 and 23 at Roanoke Country Club, followed by the September 25-30 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee. This Champions Tour event is considered to be one of the most popular by the Champions Tour pros.
The 3-day tournament played at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course features 81 PGA TOUR Champions players, 81 junior golfers ages 15-18 from The First Tee chapters across the country, and 162 amateurs. In 2017, three members from First Tee of Roanoke Valley made the trip to the Monterey Peninsula in California to compete and participate in the exceptional, prestigious activities planned for First Tee members.
“We had three of our members selected to compete at Pebble Beach last year,” First Tee Roanoke Executive Director Jennifer Blackwood noted. “It was the first time we had the honor of three of our members being chosen. The selection process is very competitive, and we look forward to our members competing for the spots again this year.”
The First Tee Roanoke Chapter is always looking for support from the area community in the form of financial donations / gifting of “good as new” golf gear and volunteers. To learn more go to: http://www.thefirstteeroanokevalley.org/