Teeing It Up: Baker Gets His First Taste Of Directing The First Tee
Tuesday at the Knollwood driving range in Southern Pines, The First Tee of the Sandhills held a free golf clinic for local youth.
PGA Tour pro Pat McGowan and LPGA Tour pro Donna Andrews ran the instructional clinic. Both are on the board of directors of the local chapter, and have donated not only their time, but also their knowledge and love of the game to the program.
At the clinic it was announced that Bill Baker is the new executive director of the Sandhills' chapter. As the former head golf professional at Foxfire Resort & Golf, Baker had hosted several junior golf events.
"I always enjoyed seeing the swings and smiles on the young people," Baker said. "Al Arrigoni, the former executive director, came out (to Foxfire) on several occasions and I thought he had a dream job. When the position came available I pursued it."
Arrigoni, who was the first executive director for the program, was replaced by Danny Kirby. Kirby resigned the position recently, and Baker came on board May 24.
Baker said what drew him to The First Tee program is that it is not like a typical golf clinic or series of golf lessons.
"There is much more to it than that," he said. "The First Tee is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of youth, not just improve their golf swings. Golf is generally viewed as an expensive pastime.
"A person can spend plenty on greens fees and equipment if he or she wants to, but The First Tee program offers children from all backgrounds and income brackets the same opportunities as the country club kids."
Baker described getting the position as a blessing and great timing for his family.
"It will certainly be a challenge to improve the quality of the experience for each child and parent involved with our program," he said, "but that is what I am dedicated to doing."
An Illinois native, Baker has a long history of involvement with golf, volunteering, teaching and nonprofit administration.
"My wife, Blue, is a great mother and RN (registered nurse) at Moore Regional," he said. "We bought our home in West End over seven years ago. Now we have two beautiful girls. Neena is 5 and just finished kindergarten at Academy Heights, and Kiona was born in January this year."
Several local high school golf standouts were at the event, including the 2007 state 3-A champion Robert Hoadley of Union Pines High School.
Baker pointed to the surplus of talented junior golfers in the area as an example of what the game can provide young people.
"The young stars like Robert, Amanda D'Ostroph, Lisa Chandler, Lauren Carter, Michael McGowan and Jack Fields are excellent examples of what the greatest game is all about," Baker said. "We love to see the accomplished players stay involved with the program. Tour celebrities Donna Andrews and Pat McGowan have had great careers in the game ... . We were very honored to have them involved, as well as the rest of the board members that helped to make the event possible.
"Brady Roland with Wal-Mart helped significantly with the food, as did Mark Packard of BB&T. Bob and Barbara Klug were instrumental in the event's success and no thanks would be complete without mentioning Bob Burwell of Robert's Golf. His time investment to the program is simply amazing."
More than 200 hot dogs were served during the day, and organizers agreed that the turnout was phenomenal and the event was a success.
The First Tee and the Tin Whistles have joined forces to launch a local junior golf tour this summer.
The tour consists of six competitive events for junior golfers, with two already having been played.
The next tournament comes up June 23-24 at the Whispering Woods Golf Club, then on July 7-8 it moves to The Country Club of Whispering Pines, followed by a July 16-17 event at Foxfire Resort and Country Club.
The last stop on the tour is Aug. 19-20 at Pinewild Country Club, for the Bill Jones Moore County Junior Amateur Championship.
Each event will be 36 holes and limited to 60 players. The field is open to both boys and girls, and flights will be established according to age.
The entry fee is $30 per event. Entry forms are available through The First Tee and the participating courses. The mission of the tour is to provide young golfers the opportunity to take the next step toward becoming accomplished tournament players while displaying the inherent core values of The First Tee.
"The Tin Whistles have made a point to be involved with The First Tee of the Sandhills for the last few years as volunteers and financial contributors," Baker said. "Now the oldest golfing fraternity in the country, founded in 1905, is taking it a step further with their Junior Tour Series. Believe me, they put on a great event."
The local chapter of The First Tee of the Sandhills operates out of a facility at The Bluff, a golf course located in Pinebluff.
For more informtion about the program, call (910) 281-0299.
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