On the morning of March 28, representatives from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and The First Tee of Phoenix announced they have partnered to open The First Tee Junior Golf Program at Talking Stick Golf Club.
The First Tee of Phoenix is a non-profit organization that provides young people ages 7 to 18 with character-building and life-skills lessons using golf as a platform. In 1997, the LPGA, Masters Tournament, PGA of America, PGA TOUR and USGA formed a partnership with the help of corporate partner Shell Oil to lead an initiative called The First Tee. This initiative began as a way to bring golf to kids and teens that otherwise would not be exposed to the game and its positive values.
Since then, The First Tee has grown into a youth service organization impacting, influencing and inspiring more than 9 million young people. The First Tee of Phoenix is supported by The Thunderbirds, the group that hosts the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open, and has partnerships with local civic and charitable organizations.
SRPMIC Council Member Tom Largo opened the morning’s ceremonies with a prayer, followed by SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier welcoming guests to the facility.
“This program is about the kids, and it will not only teach them the game of golf, but life skills as well,” said Harvier. “I want to also thank those involved who will be teaching the youth, because life is not easy and there [are] going to be tough decisions that they will have to make, not only in golf but in the game of life. Here in the Community we try to bring facilities or programs that are family oriented.”
Working with Salt River marks the first time that The First Tee has partnered with a Native American community on Native American soil.
Kevin Terry, executive director of The First Tee of Phoenix, shared how they will be holding their program here for the Community members at the Talking Stick Golf Club.
“This is our first location in Arizona. It’s the second Native American facility that The First Tee is working with, but the first in Arizona, so we are kicking off our program today with a ceremony with a few guest speakers and [a golf] clinic for the kids,” said Terry.
Representatives from The First Tee have spoken with the Community in the past, and about two months ago the groups met with the board of directors and presented the program to them.
Steve Leonard, general manager of Talking Stick Golf Club, is a fan of this program, “So we were able to come together and talk about the program and everyone loved it,” said Leonard.
“The First Tee is a youth-development program to teach life skills and values. We were created in 1997, and we’ve gone from a young organization to an international organization reaching all across the United States. I would like to thank the SRPMIC for the partnership with us,” said Guy Garbarino, vice president of outreach for The First Tee. “There is no program out there that can teach the game of golf and core values [the way this program does].”
The program is open to Community youth who have no experience with the game of golf and would like to learn more about it.
After the speeches, a ceremonial tee shot took place, and shortly afterward a golf clinic was presented for interested youth.