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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Local youth given opportunity to excel in golf with national program

  • The game of golf has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of people across the world. Whether they dove into the sport as a child or picked up their first clubs in their 50s, golf not only teaches individuals a lifelong hobby, it can teach personal life lessons that can go a long way in someone’s life.


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  • The game of golf has had a profound impact on the lives of millions of people across the world. Whether they dove into the sport as a child or picked up their first clubs in their 50s, golf not only teaches individuals a lifelong hobby, it can teach personal life lessons that can go a long way in someone’s life.
         However, golf can be quite an expensive sport to participate in, so various programs around the country are doing their part to get kids involved early and often. One of those programs is the First Tee, which is one of the largest youth golf institutes in the nation. In the state of Kansas there are four First Tee establishments, with one of them residing in the quaint community of Cimarron.
         Beginning in the late 1990s, the mission of the Cimarron First Tee program was to get local youth involved in golf and spread the word of important life skills. Through the efforts of an annual fundraising tournament, the young golfers are given the use of a set of a clubs, personal instruction twice a week, and have unlimited access to Cimarron Golf Club, where they can practice their skills throughout the summer.
         “Last year, we had 650 participants in the First Tee program, which includes the kids in every level,” said Chad Burman, who serves as the vice president for the board of directors for the Cimarron First Tee chapter. “We have been doing three community outreach programs through the course, which also reaches out to schools in Cimarron, Montezuma, and Ingalls.”
         In order to make more kids aware of the program, instructors and board members travel to surrounding elementary schools and give a presentation during physical education class. They go over the basics of the game of golf, as well as the First Tee and the life skills taught during the program.
         During their fundraising tournament this past weekend, the program raised nearly $2,500 dollars, which makes up the difference in enrollment fees for each individual golfer. Each participant is required to pay a $20 entry fee, but that covers every angle of the program, including range balls, clubs, and golf on the course.
    Starting a tradition
         When the First Tee was first established, it was aimed at garnering interest in the game of golf in the inner city areas. It was viewed as a way to get kids off the streets and out of harmful situations, by putting a golf club in their hands and giving them a chance to interact with kids who share a similar passion. Since then, it has expanded to other cities and rural communities that share the same devotion to teach the sport to underprivileged kids.
         “Cimarron sent in an application to be a First Tee chapter and we weren’t accepted right away,” Burman said. “We had to ask them what the difference was between the kids in New York City versus the kids in Cimarron. We all have the same challenges regardless of where we live, and eventually they came out and approved our program. At the time, we were the smallest chapter in the country.”
    Page 2 of 2 -      The program has been divided into several levels of learning, with the youngest golfers going through a one week training program and moving on from there. The levels include par, birdie, eagle, and ace, and can feature children of any age. Regardless of whether your 6 or 16, each golfer begins their First Tee career in the par category and must first pass all the necessary life skills involved with that program. Once those tests have been passed, a graduation ceremony occurs after practice, and the golfer enters the next phase.
         Once golfers reach the “ace” level, which is the highest level in the program, the focus switches from learning about the game of golf to becoming a better person within the community.
         “Part of the program for the ace golfers involves them doing community service, including being coaches to the 5 and 6-year olds in our target level class,” Burman said. “That gave them a chance to come out and see what it was like to teach the younger ones by giving them brief lessons.”
    Bringing kids together
         The First Tee chapters across the state of Kansas are continually looking for ways to intertwine their four subdivisions, and will actually be doing so with a tournament this summer that will involve each program from Topeka, Manhattan, Salina, and Cimarron.
         “All four chapters will come together in the middle of July to take part in an activity called ‘More Than a Game’,” Burman said. “This will be similar to a Ryder Cup event in terms of golf, but will be a little different. There will be golf involved, but they will also tie in Brown versus Board of Education, and some other activities like that that will give the kids a chance to mingle and interact.”
         Also, the Salina chapter hosts what has become the “First Tee Open,” which is open to all First Tee participants. The local PGA Professional will also have a chance to talk about healthy habits and solid core life skills, as well as a brief tournament between athletes.
         The Cimarron program will conclude their season the second week of July, wrapping things up with a tournament for the local golfers. This will give the kids a chance to implement what they’ve learned during the six weeks.
         “Not only will this give them a chance to practice what they have learned, but they will have to keep their own scores, so honesty and integrity comes into it,” Burman said. “After the tournament, everyone comes back for a barbecue and awards ceremony to celebrate our season.”
         For more information about the First Tee on a national scale, visit www.thefirsttee.org. Or if you’re interested on becoming a participant in the Cimarron chapter, contact the Cimarron Golf Club at 620-855-7003 to begin.
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