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VOL. 127 | NO. 60 | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jeremy Park

A Swing in The Right Direction

By Jeremy Park

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Last week highlighted Porter-Leath, which is an organization empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal, and independent lifestyle. This week let us discuss a nonprofit that is impacting the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf: The First Tee of Memphis.

Founded in 1991 by Charles Hudson, the First Tee of Memphis uses golf as a catalyst for character and life-skills building, as well as providing an outlet for inner-city youth to learn and enjoy the sport, regardless of their financial situation. The organization works with youth ages 5 to 18 from all over the Mid-South and has become recognized as one of the most diverse nonprofits from both a racial and economic perspective. More than 200 kids participate locally each year in their programs and, so far, more than 4.7 million youth have participated in the First Tee programs nationally through 750 program locations.

Located at 974 Firestone Ave., the site of the old Firestone tire plant near Downtown, the First Tee of Memphis is revitalizing 92 acres, slowly turning it into an 18-hole golf course. They already have a 450-yard driving range with multiple chipping and putting greens that will soon be open to the public. Their facility provides a positive, safe place for youth, who are surrounded by caring adults in structured environment. Programs take place after-school, on weekends, and during the summer and the cost per child is only $55 for a nine-week session with many children receiving partial or full scholarships.

The key to success is that the First Tee of Memphis is first and foremost a life-skills organization. The focus is on teaching youth skills that allow them to face challenges at home, school and play in a constructive manner that includes problem solving, managing time, controlling emotions, working well with others, living a healthy lifestyle and improving relationships – all seamlessly through golf. Mentorship and access to a lifelong sport that is known to open doors in the corporate world become icing on the cake.

As testimony of their impact, they were awarded the 2011 Golf Digest Award for the Best Municipality in the Country. Another neat success is helping Manassas High School create a golf team, then coach them to second place in their division.

Getting engaged with the First Tee of Memphis is fun and easy. Take a tour of their facility or consider serving as a board member, coach, mentor or volunteer. On April 9 they have their Inaugural Day After the Masters event at Mirimichi, which will be a great opportunity to play golf, mix and mingle and learn more. Visit www.thefirstteememphis.org or contact their Executive Director, Nyrone Hawkins at 526-1480 or nhawkins@thefirstteememphis.org for more information.

Jeremy Park, director of communications at Lipscomb Pitts Insurance and director of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, can be reached at jeremyp@lpinsurance.com.

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