(Photo by Josh Mills, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Golfers all over the world can describe their sport as frustrating, yet calming at the same time. For the First Tee program, the idea behind the sports isn't that it's just a game, but that it is a life lesson as well.
The First Tee program, created in 1997 by the World Golf Federation, was designed to bring together young aspiring athletes and the skills that they eventually need in life to succeed to their fullest potential.
Head instructor at the Sikeston program, Greg Choate, believes that golf can be used as a tool to bring character, moral values and integrity into kids' lives that they may not always witness in their own homes or everyday happenings.
"We do concentrate on life skills and golf skills both," said Choate. "That's what the difference is between us and every other youth program. The life skills they can use the rest of their life."
Choate said that the nine core values of the First Tee program are courtesy, honesty, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, integrity, perseverance, judgment and confidence. He said that the participants must pass both the life skills test as well as the golf skills in order to advance to a higher level in the program. The program levels are par, birdie, eagle and ace and each level includes different variations of the life skills that Choate described.
"We haven't had anybody that has had to reaccess their life skills," he said. "We had a few that did on their golf skills, but we can work on that. We really want to concentrate on the life skills."
Choate went on to say that the most important aspect of the program is to teach the kids the skills that they will need in life, not on the golf course.
The Sikeston program makes its home at Bootheel Golf Club. Course manager Jeff Ketterman says that he is more than pleased with the turnout and outcome of each session that the program has held.
"This First Tee program, I can't say enough about it," said Ketterman. "It's a program that teaches kids life skills through the game of golf. It also introduces kids that normally wouldn't get to play to the game of golf as well. Maybe we can build some players but also build some better human beings as well through the game."
"It's a nationally sponsored program," he added. "This is something that we've encouraged the parents that if they don't know anything about the First Tee program, since this is the day of the internet, that they should look it up. They'd be impressed with it."
Ketterman went on to say that the program provides clubs for participants that don't have their own set to bring with them.
Beginning on Tuesday morning, the First Tee program will receive a gift from a tournament being held at Bootheel Golf Club featuring players from the United Golf Group of America tour. The tour players, all senior players, are players that Ketterman said just missed the cut on the PGA Champions Tour.
Monday, a pro-am tournament will be held at Bootheel to feature local businesses that have participated in giving to the First Tee program as well as a few of the top money winners from the tour that Ketterman said like to help their charities as well.
"It's a win-win situation," he said. "It's free and anybody that wants to come out and watch is welcome to do so."
The pro-am begins on Monday at 12:30 p.m.
As for the regular tournament, 54 holes will be played from Tuesday until Thursday and there is a purse close to $40,000. Ketterman said that the first prize winner will take home about $6500. He also said that the tournament not only gives the senior players a chance to play, but also brings economy to town as well.
"The whole purpose of having this tour up here is to raise money and awareness for this First Tee program," said Ketterman. "These pros that are coming up here are guys that didn't get their Champions Tour card, and what they do is they try to stay sharp. They'll go around and try to qualify at events and if they don't make it then they come play in tournaments like this all over the country where they can stay sharp and have a chance to make a little money too. That's what this tour is all about."
For more information on the First Tee program visit www.thefirsttee.org.