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The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from Canton: The First Tee teaches golf AND life lessons

  • The First Tee of Canton at 2525 25th St. NE is a golfing facility where youngsters learn more than just the game. “We teach them how to be better people,” said Terry Taylor, golf professional at The First Tee. “We get them prepared for what they might encounter on the golf course, in school, and at home.”

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  • The First Tee of Canton at 2525 25th St. NE is a golfing facility where youngsters learn more than just the game.
    “We teach them how to be better people,” said Terry Taylor, golf professional at The First Tee. “We get them prepared for what they might encounter on the golf course, in school, and at home.”
    When First Tee instructors — both golf professionals and volunteers — teach young golfers such skills as aim and distance control, they’re also introducing them to working with people. The young boys and girls are learning teamwork and etiquette — “and they don’t even know it,” said Taylor, “because we’re doing it seamlessly.”
    “It’s the life skills part that separates us from other junior golf programs,” said Doug Mills, executive director of The First Tee of Canton.
    The local program, part of the larger First Tee initiative founded in 1997 by World Golf Foundation, is taking registration for 2012 spring, summer and fall sessions. Instruction during the spring (beginning April 28) and fall periods (beginning Sept. 8), while school is in session, is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on five consecutive Saturdays and cost $40 per series. Two summer programs (beginning June 5 and July 10), are $60 for each series of eight instruction sessions ($100 for both summer programs), and are held twice a week over four weeks, from 3 to 6 p.m. on either Tuesdays and Thursdays or Wednesdays and Fridays.
    Call 330-452-5331 to register or visit www.thefirstteecanton.org. Scholarships are available.
    “This program is open to kids everywhere, of all backgrounds,” said Mills. “The vast majority of our kids are from Stark County, but we do have kids from Summit, Tuscarawas, Wayne and Portage counties.”
    Instruction is given in an indoor facility and outdoors on First Tee’s nine-hole par 3 course. Mills noted that First Tee also uses Fairways at Arrowhead in North Canton, and also will be making use of Tam O’Shanter golf courses.
    Part of First Tees curriculum, emphasizing nine core values — courtesy, responsibility, integrity, perseverance, honesty, respect, confidence, judgment and sportsmanship — is the STAR system. The acronym stands for “Stop, Think, Anticipate and Respond” — a process that golfers young and old should follow not only before each shot in their round, but also while solving the problems they encounter in their lives, said Mills.
    Each of the nine holes on First Tee’s course is named for one of the program’s core values, and each is open to sponsorship — $5,000 over four years for single sponsorship or $2,500 during the same period for shared sponsorship. First Tee also sells bricks on its Path To Integrity, honoring individuals who have influenced the buyer’s life.
    Staff instructors include retired PGA professional Jim Logue, who was head pro at Brookside Country Club, and Guy Bertram, First Tee’s life skills coach. Young participants in the program advance from “player” status, through “par” and “birdie” and “eagle” levels, to the status of “ace.” But that progression does not just reflect the accumulation of skills, Taylor and Mills said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Perhaps the mission statement of The First Tee of Canton best sums up what is experienced by youngsters ages 7 to 18 who agree to abide by the expectations of the program.
    “Our Mission,” words on The First Tee of Canton’s website and promotion brochures promise, is “to impact 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.”