First Tee helps teens learn life skills and golf skills
Sixteen-year-old Ethan Verner lines up his shot on the practice tee at Ivanhoe Club in Mundelein Saturday and lets it rip.
"Oooh. He's got a lot of club speed through the ball," says Rick Kaye, board member of The First Tee of Greater Chicago, an international organization whose goal is to teach teens and preteens not only essential golf skills, but life skills as well.
Verner listens intently and follows the instructions as Kaye gives him tips on turning his hands during his swing. He has been playing golf since the age of 11 when he first was influenced by The First Tee program.
"Everything I've learned has been from Day One eleven years ago," Verner says.
Everything includes more than just golf skills.
"We teach big core values and life skills through golf," says Kaye. "We teach honesty, integrity and sportsmanship among other things."
The program reaches as many as 50,000 kids from age 7-17 annually and has 23 site locations in Greater Chicago. It is aimed at kids who face life challenges. Saturday's event, returning for its sixth year to Ivanhoe, rewarded program participants recommended by coaches for their hard work and positive attitudes and included lunch and golf etiquette, as well as nine holes of play on the PGA tournament level course.
"We're teaching year round," says Kaye. "On weekends and after school in winter too," in indoor facilities.
Eleven-year-old Carson Valeroso, of Long Grove has been playing almost half his life. "It's nice to have this opportunity," he says just before going out to play a round on the Ivanhoe Club course.