The First Tee Is Just What Kids Need
It can be argued that no program in the history of junior golf has had the impact of The First Tee. This organization has caught on across the nation, and areas that don’t have one are searching for ways to begin one.
Moore County is fortunate to have one of the strongest chapters in the nation in The First Tee of the Sandhills, but it didn’t happen by accident.
Or, on second thought, maybe it was by accident, at least in part.
I’m not sure how the miracle of this program would have developed had not the late Al Arrigoni Sr. decided to build the Pine Horse par-3 course on his farm located on U.S. 1 between Southern Pines and Vass.
Pine Horse was a novel idea, built with artificial turf and featuring greens that had pretty much the same reaction to shots as real grass. The hope was that golfers visiting the Pinehurst area might be looking for something to do after their rounds on the regulation courses.
“Myrtle Beach has a lot of attractions after golf,” Arrigoni reasoned at the time, “and there really isn’t that much entertainment here. The guys play golf, have dinner and that’s pretty much it.”
The idea appeared sound, but it never really caught on. Not nearly enough golfers came out to support the course and Arrigoni decided to go young. He got together with Stuart Taylor, a strong supporter of youth golf who had recently left Woodlake Country Club and they began a program for juniors that attracted quite a few youngsters.
Still, it wasn’t enough to support the business, and that’s when Al Arrigoni Jr. and The First Tee got together.
The national organization was just getting its boots on the ground, and “Little Al,” as he was called. was quick to get involved. He attended the necessary learning sessions and was able to make the idea sound feasible, both to the parent group of The First Tee and to local supporters.
You might say “Little Al” caught lightning in a bottle. Thanks to his father and to a loyal group of volunteers, including Bob Burwell and Bob Klug, and supporters such as Bill Clement and others, The First Tee of the Sandhills Chapter flourished.
There’s no way I can list all the men and women who have donated their time and talents and money to making this miracle happen, because these are people who aren’t seeking the limelight. They’re all about helping kids and growing the future of a game that they love. But suffice it to say that they are numerous. Little Al left a few years ago to build a now flourishing program in Brunswick County and has since moved up to a position with the national organization. Talent and hard work do still reap rewards.
Bill Baker is now the executive director of the Sandhills Chapter and is doing a remarkable job. The organization continues to grow and each year turns out dozens of youngsters with people skills and core values that make them outstanding citizens.
There is no way to hand out accolades to the many people who have contributed to the program without neglecting some. For that, we apologize in advance. But one name we have to mention is that of Bob Hepner, a member of the respected Tin Whistles Club of Pinehurst. Hepner is directly responsible for creating the Tin Whistles-First Tee Junior Tour that offers kids from Moore and surrounding counties the opportunity to participate in a series of summer events that provide tournament experience while promoting the values of The First Tee.
The training and core values taught these youngsters are obvious from the moment you meet them. They greet you with a smile, shake your hand and look you in the eye when you’re introduced. If I had a youngster I would do whatever it took to have him of her enrolled in the program. It’s about so much more than the game of golf.
It’s all about the game of life.
All you really need to know about The First Tee is to learn the Nine Core Values that are taught.
These are Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgment.
Sound like something you’d like your kids to adhere to?
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