First Tee of Sandhills Chapter Turns 10
It’s hard to believe the First Tee of the Sandhills Chapter has been in existence for only 10 years. The program has involved so many youths and had such a major impact in the area that it seems it’s been part of the local golf scene for much longer.
The national First Tee organization was developed in 1997, and the Sandhills Chapter received its charter in 2003 — the first to be granted in North Carolina.
There are now more than 200 chapters worldwide, and the Sandhills Chapter is often pointed to as a model program.
The local chapter’s success is no secret formula. It began with the leadership of Al Arrigoni and his father, Roland, at the Pine Horse Par-3 Golf Club and has reached new heights under Executive Director Bill Baker.
Still, as Baker is the first to point out, the organization could not have existed, much less prospered, without the corps of volunteers who assist in the coaching, training and vital fundraising.
“Thanks to a growing team of dedicated volunteers, we have the confidence to develop new programs while continuing to improve the delivery of the First Tee Life Skills Experience,” Baker said.
Bob Burwell, owner of Robert’s Golf, exemplifies the volunteer corps that makes the First Tee work. Along with a couple of other coach Bobs — Hepner and Klug — as well as several others, Burwell tirelessly donates his time to the organization.
The First Tee of the Sandhills is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with its biggest year of growth to date. The number of the participants reached with the First Tee Life Skills and Nine Core Values in 2013 will significantly increase with the expansion into other counties and the implementation of the First Tee National School Program,
Throughout its 10 years, the Sandhills Chapter has had more 1,500 participants attend life skills experience classes and more than 15,000 young people involved through outreach efforts.
There have been some location changes in headquarters over the years. When the Arrigonis closed the par-3 course, the chapter moved its base to the Bluff Golf Links in 2006, then in 2009 relocated to its current home, the Country Club of Whispering Pines. Baker has been executive director of the program since 2009.
“There is nothing quite like sharing the joy of a child,” Baker said, “especially when you are on the golf course.
“It’s great to work with an organization that has established its legitimacy and leadership in developing the next generation of good golfers and great citizens.
“Although my title may change through my career, I will always be a First Tee coach.”
The First Tee of the Sandhills has recently committed to add the First Tee’s National School Program in 40 elementary public and private schools in Moore, Hoke and Robeson counties.
Each of the 14 Moore County public elementary schools will have the program this year, which will be implemented as part of the physical education curriculums in the fall of 2013.
This means almost every elementary-aged child in Moore County will be introduced to the First Tee’s Nine Core Values through the game of golf.
Chapter representatives will be training volunteers to help with implementing the program and are still seeking sponsors to support the longevity of the program.
The First Tee National School Program introduces the game of golf, and the First Tee Nine Core Values and Nine Healthy Habits to elementary students during physical education classes. More than 25,000 youngsters will be reached through the 40 schools.
The First Tee of the Sandhills board has approved expanding its service area into eight surrounding counties, including Hoke, Montgomery, Robeson, Cumberland, Scotland, Richmond, Lee and Harnett.
There are efforts by groups in Fayetteville, Pembroke, Candor and Troy to begin program locations and affiliates as early as spring of this year.
The First Tee of the Sandhills is currently registering participants for its nine-week spring session beginning March 16.
Classes are offered for youth ages 5 through 18 throughout different days of the week.
There are currently 15 classes scheduled for the spring at five different program locations. Registration information can be found on the First Tee’s website, www.thefirstteesandhills.org.
Despite the national organization and the strong leadership of Baker and his recently acquired director of development, Lisa Chandler, the First Tee of the Sandhills could not exist without the support of its volunteers and donors.
“The support from the community in the past 10 years has been incredible,” Chandler said. “But the new expansion and national schools program will require more resources and volunteers than in years past.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the First Tee in any capacity, contact Chandler at (910) 783-5287, or lchandler@thefirstteesandhills. org.
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