Photo Bernard Brault, Golf Canada
Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
RBC CANADIAN OPEN
Oakdale Golf and Country Club
Hall of fame
Adam Hunter (Golf Canada)
First Tee and Youth on Course work collaboratively to provide a welcoming and accessible junior golf pathway.
Golf participation in Canada is currently at multiyear highs and as the national sport organization, Golf Canada is focused on the long-term future and overall health of our sport. For example, as golf participation thrives today, what long-term investment must be made to ensure the sport will be similarly healthy a generation from now?
Long-term trends indicate that the Canadian population will become increasingly multicultural and multidimensionally diverse than today. To sustain and grow Canadian golf participation going forward, a larger share of golfers will reflect racialized and socioeconomic backgrounds that have been historically underrepresented in our sport.
Many golf courses operate highly successful and impactful junior programs across Canada. As a complement to these fundamentally important locally driven efforts, Golf Canada, along with corporate and philanthropic supporters, are making long-term investments that specifically seek to provide affordable and welcoming golf access to Canadian youth from a diversity of backgrounds.
The first primary investment is in First Tee – an internationally renowned program with over 25 years of operation in the United States. First Tee offers junior golf and youth development experiences in three settings: golf facilities, community centres, and schools. The First Tee program provides equipment, turnkey lesson plans, and in-depth instructor training. First Tee is primarily suited for publicly accessible facilities and municipal golf courses – or private courses who welcome non-member juniors for First Tee programming that takes place on driving ranges and putting greens. First Tee has an extensive track record in the United States of welcoming equity-deserving youth into our sport.
First Tee is funded by generous individuals and corporate donors. First Tee programming is offered for free at all schools and community centres. Most participating golf courses are able to offer programming for free, and need-based financial assistance is available to all participants so that cost is never a barrier.
Golf Canada initially partnered with First Tee in 2020 and the program will be operational in every province by the end of 2023, charting a course for community-by-community growth that will be executed over several years.
The second important investment into the sport is Youth on Course – a program that allows junior golfers to play golf on a participating course for a green fee of $5 or less. Junior golfers who are introduced to the sport through First Tee can thus transition onto the golf course at an affordable price.
Youth on Course started in the United States and there are nearly 2,000 participating golf courses across North America. From a Canadian perspective, the program began in Alberta and Ontario in 2019 and expanded to British Columbia and Atlantic Canada this year. Partner courses are provided with a modest subsidy in addition to the $5 green fee collected from the junior golfer. Youth on Course is funded by individual and corporate donors who believe in increasing golf course access for juniors. Host courses also make an important contribution by prioritizing access for juniors, even while incurring an opportunity cost.
What do we believe is the blueprint for supporting an accessible junior golf pathway for Canadian youth from all backgrounds? Engage youth from equity deserving communities at their local schools and community centres through First Tee, transition participants to nearby First Tee golf courses to further their development in golf and finally, provide a low-cost on-course entry point through Youth on Course.
Beyond large-scale exposure to the sport, a segment of these participants will advance on to engage in competitive golf through the Junior Skills Challenge or the multitude of local, provincial, and national junior tournaments.
The impact of junior golf programs always occurs locally, and is often supported by the local club, provincial golf associations, and the efforts of PGA of Canada professionals. Whether at the grassroots level or competitively, junior golf is driven by the energy and professionalism of local coaches and volunteers. Through First Tee and Youth on Course, Golf Canada seeks to complement existing successful junior programs and provide local leaders with additional programming that is designed for the long-term future of Canadian golf.
The long-term result will be a sport that continues to be the most played of any sport in the country, and one more closely aligned with the diversity strengths of multi-cultural Canada.
Teeing up for a bright future: First Tee’s impact at the RBC Canadian Open
1,5000 kids. $160,00 raised. Countless Memories.
For Canadian sports fans, it will be hard to forget the moment that Nick Taylor sunk a 72-foot putt to be named the first Canadian to win the RBC Canadian Open in nearly 70 years. Similarly, the memories First Tee created for over 1,500 children during tournament week will last a lifetime.
First Tee welcomed First Tee – Ontario participants, local junior golfers, children from the Toronto School Board, BGC Jane and Finch, BGC Peel, Hope 4 U Community Services, and the Elms Community Centre. Children experienced behind-the-scenes tours of tournament grounds exposing them to the endless opportunities in sport aside from playing golf, and fun introductory clinics hosted by First Tee – Ontario coaches. Some even took pros’ first putts during the annual Walk With a Pro activation during Wednesday’s Championship Pro-Am round.
First Tee – Canada is funded through generous corporate and individual donors that align with the program’s mission to positively impact the lives of youth through golf. First Tee – Canada was the tournament’s official charitable beneficiary, and through 50/50 ticket sales, 18th Grandstand seating admission sales, and generous corporate donations, over $160,000 was raised.
Interested in becoming a First Tee location or a First Tee coach? Visit firstteecanada.ca to learn more.
National Indigenous History Month: Renewing Relationships with First Tee – Canada
Maddy Boelhouwer/ Golf Canada
The world just turned its attention to Toronto for the PGA TOUR’s RBC Canadian Open. Meanwhile, First Tee – Canada is also taking a moment to reflect in honour of National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day.
This month serves as a reminder to acknowledge that we live, work, and play on the unceded traditional homelands of Indigenous communities, stand with those who are impacted by residential school systems and ongoing colonial structures and policies, and celebrate Indigenous cultures, traditions, and heritage together.
Canada recognizes three groups of Indigenous peoples: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, each with unique histories, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs. Nearly two million Canadians identify as Indigenous.
First Tee – Canada is made up of five chapters: First Tee – British Columbia, First Tee – Premier départ Quebec, First Tee – Atlantic, First Tee – Ontario, and First Tee – Prairies, with First Tee – Alberta launching later this year.
Each chapter has unique and dynamic relationships with local Indigenous communities.
BC has the greatest diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada. First Tee – British Columbia opened its first program location, The Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy, on traditional Musqueam First Nation territory in 2021.
Since then, it has expanded to over 53 program spaces and sold out every session this year. This summer, CPCK Women’s Open will be held at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, which is also located on Musqueam traditional territory. During tournament week, First Tee – British Columbia will host youth clinics at Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy, offer behind-the-scenes tours of the event grounds for local community groups, and provide children with positive experiences through golf.
Being home to more than 200 First Nations, First Tee – British Columbia hopes to continue to strengthen its existing relationships with Indigenous communities, but also strives to expand its network and collaborate with additional Indigenous communities across the province.
In Quebec, there are over 40 Indigenous communities across the province. First Tee – Premier départ Quebec currently collaborates with the Mohawk community of Kahnawake, the Cree community of Waskaganish, and the First Nation of Mashteuiatsh through First Tee golf course, school, and community programming.
The Quebec team also works closely with the Club 24 Athletics Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting young Indigenous leaders through sport and education.
Last year, First Tee – Premier départ Quebec hosted programming for 18 Indigenous participants. The team hopes to more than double that number this year.
In the Kahnawake First Nations reserve, there are seven golf courses in under 50 km. The community’s volunteer coaches are introducing as many children as possible to golf through First Tee, developing multisport athletes to open more doors in their futures.
First Tee – Premier départ Quebec has been able to provide most programming at no cost to participants, with an entirely Indigenous coaching staff.
Ontario is home to over 23 percent of all Indigenous peoples in Canada.
First Tee – Ontario currently works with Anishnabeg Outreach Kitchener and Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre to offer First Tee community programming at their locations throughout the summer and will provide an on-course fun day at nearby golf courses this summer, too. Ahkwesahsne Mohawk Board has also come on board and will offer First Tee school programming this fall.
Additionally, last week, First Tee – Ontario coaches supported Golf Ontario’s Indigenous Try Golf Day event held at Sandusk Golf Club and led First Tee programming for children who attended the event.
First Tee – Prairies and First Tee – Atlantic are in the beginning stages of building relationships with Indigenous communities within their provinces, but hope to launch programming soon, some even this summer.
The continued focus for First Tee – Canada is to build out community hubs of accessible pathways for golf participation through community centres, schools, and golf courses, ensuring the sport of golf reflects the strengths of Canada’s diversity.
Each chapter is dedicated to building trusting and authentic relationships with community organizations, stakeholders, and volunteers in their provinces to provide support for equity-deserving groups, including Indigenous communities.
Click here for learning resources about First Nations, Inuit, and Metis across Canada. Visit firstteecanada.ca to learn more about program efforts across the country.
The debut of First Tee – Alberta makes First Tee – Canada operational in every province
June 20, 2023 – Golf Canada and Golf Canada Foundation are proud to announce that First Tee – Alberta will launch this year thanks to the continued progress of the Golf Canada Foundation Drive Campaign. To date, Drive has raised $15.7 million in cash and commitments to support First Tee across Canada.
With support from Alberta Golf, First Tee – Alberta will hire chapter staff, onboard golf facilities, community centres and schools, and build a supportive provincial network of donors, volunteers, and coaches. Alberta-based programming will begin in the fall.
First Tee – Canada provides accessible and inclusive youth development programming and life-enhancing experiences through golf, especially for children who may have otherwise not had the opportunity.
Golf Canada partnered with First Tee in 2020 to launch First Tee – Canada. Programming began in 2021 in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario, with the Atlantic and Prairies regions following in 2022.
Although the launch of First Tee – Alberta establishes a presence for the program in every province, this is only the beginning of First Tee – Canada’s efforts to provide accessible introductory golf environments and participation pathways to children from all backgrounds. First Tee – Canada will continue growing its network, onboarding more program locations, and enrolling more participants across the country in the coming years.
The focus for First Tee – Alberta, and fellow chapters across Canada is to build out community hubs made up of neighbouring community centres, schools, and golf courses offering youth programming with a focus to engage equity-deserving groups.
Golf Canada and Golf Canada Foundation are continuously pursuing gifts to deliver programming to more children across Canada. To date, First Tee – Canada has received nearly $16 million in donations to support the launch and growth of five chapters, the onboarding of 57 golf facilities, 41 community centres, and 110 schools, and the engagement of nearly 50,000 participants across the country.
To learn how to support First Tee – Alberta’s launch and growth, please email Adam Hunter. To find a chapter near you, visit firstteecanada.ca.
About First Tee – Canada
First Tee – Canada is a youth development program operating by Golf Canada since 2020. In partnership with First Tee, Golf Canada launched First Tee – Canada to provide inclusive and accessible life-enhancing opportunities to children through golf. First Tee – Canada continues to expand programming and positively impact youth at golf courses, schools, and community centres across the country. For more information and to learn how to support First Tee – Canada, visit firstteecanada.ca.
About Golf Canada Foundation
Golf Canada Foundation is the leading source for golf philanthropy in Canada, granting more than $4.5 million to golf programs in 2022, and $19 million invested in the sport since the Foundation’s inception in 1979. The Foundation’s mission is to support and promote programs that increase participation in golf by engaging players of all ages and abilities across Canada. For more information about what Golf Canada Foundation is doing to support golf in your community, visit us online at www.golfcanadafoundation.com
About Golf Canada
Golf Canada is the National Sports Federation and governing body for golf in Canada, representing more than 319,000 golfers and 1,435 member clubs across the country. A proud member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Golf Canada’s vision is to be a world leader in golf and achieving the mission to increase Canadian participation and excellence For more information about what Golf Canada is doing to support golf in your community, visit www.golfcanada.ca.
Media Contact: Madelyn Boelhouwer | Senior Coordinator, Marketing and Communications First Tee – Canada | Golf Canada | firstname.lastname@example.org
Oakdale Golf and Country Club makes an impact beyond the course
Maddy Boelhouwer/ Golf Canada
Oakdale Golf and Country Club is not only the host of the 2023 RBC Canadian Open, but with a goal to make an impact beyond the championship, it has also opened its gates to children and non-golfing families in the community. By the end of this year, Oakdale will have introduced nearly 150 local youth to golf through First Tee – Ontario, at no cost to the participants, due to the generosity of the club’s membership.
First Tee is a youth development program that provides children with life-enhancing experiences through golf. First Tee – Ontario offers accessible introductory golf programming at golf courses, schools, and community centres, striving to ensure that the sport of golf reflects the diversity of Canadians.
Golf Canada partnered with First Tee in 2020 to launch First Tee – Canada, which is operational in nearly every region of the country, apart from Alberta, which is set to launch this summer.
As a private golf club, Oakdale’s access is typically reserved for members and guests. But with First Tee, Oakdale is setting itself apart from other private clubs by providing inclusive access to the game for high-density, lower-income neighbouring communities. Nearly 70 children from the nearby Oakdale Community Centre participated in First Tee programming last summer. This summer, more than 50 children from the Boys and Girls Club of Jane and Finch will be taking a short bus ride to the course to experience all that the sport has to offer.
“Our goal is to introduce golf to children from all backgrounds,” says Amaya Athill, Program Manager, First Tee – Ontario. “Together, we are actively addressing barriers such as affordability and accessibility by leveraging our resources to provide opportunities for meaningful access to golf.”
First Tee prides itself on providing empowering environments where children feel welcomed, safe to fail, and excited to grow. The curriculum is designed to introduce golf to children as young as five and incorporates a life skill component while focusing on having fun. Activities are modified to the age and ability of the participants and can include familiar sports such as baseball or bowling, but with a golf twist, while weaving in the continued development of skills such as confidence, perseverance, and integrity.
The junior golf coaches at Oakdale, Bob Beauchemin (Ontario Golf Hall of Famer and 2022 recipient of the Lorie Kane Community Spirit Award), and Izidor Markic, underwent First Tee training through the PGA of Canada last year. They have since immersed themselves in the brand and mission of introducing youth to golf, especially those who would not have otherwise had the opportunity and making a positive influence in their lives.
“It’s rewarding to be a part of this program, and a bigger movement to grow the game of golf. For most of the children, it’s their first time on a golf course,” said Bob Beauchemin, First Tee – Ontario Coach and Oakdale’s Director of Instruction. “To be a part of that first introduction to golf and then to see them progress through the program and gain confidence and skills, with a smile on their face, is amazing. We look forward to the continued success of First Tee in years to come.”
This year at the RBC Canadian Open, First Tee – Ontario and Golf Canada will host over 1,000 children from local community centres and the Toronto District School Board for behind-the-scenes tours and golf activations. The hope is to introduce children to golf in a fun and positive environment and expose them to the opportunities that are available in the world of golf, in addition to playing.
Beauchemin and his accompanying volunteer coaching staff have upheld Oakdale’s mission of making family the heart of their operations. Through First Tee – Ontario, Oakdale has created its own small family of golfers from the course’s very own backyard.
To date, First Tee – Ontario has nearly 20 golf facilities, 16 community centres, and 20 schools delivering programming across the province. To learn more about programming near you, or to donate, visit firstteeontario.ca.
RBC Community Junior Golf welcomes 18 new golf course sites
Maddy Boelhouwer/ Golf Canada
First Tee – Canada and Youth on Course will provide greater access to the game for 10,000 youth by end of 2023
TORONTO – Today, RBC and Golf Canada are excited to welcome 18 new golf course sites to RBC Community Junior Golf, which provides affordable access to the game for underrepresented groups and socio-economically disadvantaged youth in Canada. The newly selected sites join fifteen returning courses from the 2022 inaugural season, which engaged nearly 6,000 young people in communities across Canada.
RBC Community Junior Golf enables the implementation of First Tee – Canada and Youth on Course programming at accessible municipal and public golf courses and helps create pathways to the game at nearby schools and communities. The courses were selected based on accessibility to local public transit as well as proximity to community centres, with an intentional focus on regional and diverse representation.
“RBC strongly believes that sport has the power to build character, provide opportunities for young people to grow and foster vibrant communities,” said Shannon Cole, Vice President, Brand Marketing, RBC. “We are incredibly proud of the impact RBC Community Junior Golf had in its first season and look forward to expanding our reach to enable more access to the game of golf.”
RBC Community Junior Golf Welcomes New Golf Courses:
Club de Golf Saint-Michel – Bellechase, QC
Club de Golf Bic – Rimouski, QC
Country Meadows Golf Club – Moncton, NB
Doon Valley Golf Course – Kitchener, ON
East Park Golf – London, ON
Fox Meadow Golf Course – Stratford, PEI
Glacier Greens Golf Club – Comox, BC
Golf Mentor Group – Winnipeg, MB
Highland Pacific Golf – Victoria, BC
Hollinger Golf Club – Timmins, ON
Humber River Golf Club – Deer Lake, NL
KenWo Golf Club – New Minas, NS
Kingswood Golf Course – Fredericton, NB
Lakeview Golf Course – Regina, SK
The Marshes Golf Club – Ottawa, ON
Tuxedo Golf Club – Winnipeg, MB
Roseland Golf & Curling Club – Windsor, ON
Wildwood Golf Course – Saskatoon, SK
RBC Community Junior Golf Returning Golf Courses:
Archie’s Family Golf Centre – Cornwall, ON
Blomidon Golf and Country Club – Corner Brook, NL
Cedar Hill Golf Course – Victoria, BC
Chedoke Golf Club – Hamilton, ON
Club de Golf Municipal Dallaire – Rouyn-Noranda, QC
Club de Golf Les Rivières – Trois-Rivières, QC
Humber Valley Golf Course – Etobicoke, ON
Legends on the Niagara – Niagara, ON
Mill River Golf Course – Woodstock, PEI
Peel Village Golf Course – Brampton, ON
Tam O’Shanter Golf Course – Scarborough, ON
Walter Gretzky Municipal Golf Course – Brantford, ON
Whitewater Golf Club – Thunder Bay, ON
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Golf: Fraserview Golf Course – Vancouver, BC
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Golf: Queen Elizabeth Park Pitch and Putt – Vancouver, BC
Each location will be equipped with First Tee instructor training, tailored lesson plans, equipment and financial support to operate at no cost to the location or participants. Additionally, each golf facility will offer Youth on Course, which provides young golfers aged six to 18 with access to subsidized rounds of golf for five dollars or less.
“RBC Community Junior Golf has played a major role in the thriving growth of First Tee and Youth on Course across Canada,” said Kevin Blue, Chief Sport Officer, Golf Canada. “Their initiative will continue to expand our reach in equity-deserving communities and provide more children with life-enhancing opportunities through golf. We look forward to our partnership and commitment to ensuring that our sport reflects the diversity of Canadians.”
Canadian youth aged five to 18 years can benefit from First Tee and Youth on Course at one of the participating golf courses. RBC Community Junior Golf participating facilities work with community centres or schools in their local area to register youth participants. For more details, visit: https://www.golfcanada.ca/rbcjrgolf.
Royal Bank of Canada is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance. Our success comes from the 97,000+ employees who leverage their imaginations and insights to bring our vision, values and strategy to life so we can help our clients thrive and communities prosper. As Canada’s biggest bank and one of the largest in the world, based on market capitalization, we have a diversified business model with a focus on innovation and providing exceptional experiences to our 17 million clients in Canada, the U.S. and 27 other countries. Learn more at rbc.com.
We are proud to support a broad range of community initiatives through donations, community investments and employee volunteer activities. See how at rbc.com/community-social-impact.
About Golf Canada
Golf Canada is the National Sports Federation and governing body for golf in Canada, representing more than 319,000 golfers and 1,435 member clubs across the country. A proud member of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Golf Canada’s vision is to be a world leader in golf and achieving the mission to increase Canadian participation and excellence. For more information about what Golf Canada is doing to support golf in your community, visit golfcanada.ca.
About First Tee – Canada
First Tee – Canada is a youth development program operating under Golf Canada since 2020. In partnership with First Tee, Golf Canada launched First Tee – Canada to provide inclusive and accessible life-enhancing opportunities to children through golf. First Tee – Canada continues to expand programming and positively impact youth at golf courses, schools, and community centres across the country. For more information and to learn how to support First Tee – Canada, visit firstteecanada.ca.
For further information: Fiona Anderson, RBC, email@example.com; Madelyn Boelhouwer, Golf Canada (First Tee – Canada), firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Weir Announced as First Tee – Canada Ambassador
Maddy Boelhouwer/ Golf Canada
Canadian golf icon and philanthropist to help foster donor relationships and support the advancement of First Tee programming for children and families across Canada
TORONTO, February 21, 2023 – Golf Canada and the Golf Canada Foundation are pleased to announce that Canadian Golf Hall of Famer and dedicated philanthropist Mike Weir has been named the first official First Tee – Canada ambassador.
As an ambassador for First Tee – Canada, Weir will support the program through attendance at fundraising events, helping to foster donor relationships, and broadening the reach of First Tee – Canada’s positive impact on children and families.
Born and raised in Bright’s Grove, Ont., the eight-time PGA TOUR winner and 2003 Masters champion has been a philanthropic supporter of Canadian youth for nearly 20 years through the charitable work of the Mike Weir Foundation.
First Tee – Canada provides affordable access to golf for youth across the country, striving to diversify and grow the game of golf to reflect the strengths of Canada’s multiculturalism more closely. Inclusive programming is delivered at golf courses, schools, and community centres introducing golf and providing life-enhancing experiences through sport to children.
“I am honoured to take on the role of First Tee – Canada ambassador,” said Weir. “Historically, golf has not been the most accessible sport for families to get involved with, and I am proud to be part of a program that is working with donors and community leaders to break down those barriers. My passion for golf and supporting children’s development is well aligned with the First Tee – Canada’s mission and I am excited to contribute wherever I can.”
“We are extremely proud to welcome Mike Weir as a First Tee – Canada ambassador,” said Golf Canada Chief Sport Officer Kevin Blue. “Mike has meant so much to Canadian golf and his altruism and charitable experience will help generate meaningful awareness of First Tee across the Canadian philanthropic community. We highly anticipate Mike’s ambassadorship adding to the continued advancement of the program, and its ability to positively impact Canadian youth.”
Weir, who took up the game at Huron Oaks near Sarnia, Ont. was recently named International Team Captain of the 2024 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club. As a philanthropist, the Mike Weir Foundation has raised over $8,000,000 for Canadian children’s charities since 2004.
Launched in 2020 with the generous support of the Golf Canada Foundation and its network of donors, First Tee – Canada has operating chapters in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, the Atlantic region, and a newly launched Prairies region. With programming in schools, at community centres, and at golf courses, Golf Canada’s goal is to welcome 100,000 First Tee – Canada participants by 2024.
Rules of Amateur Status changes will help introduce the game to underserved demographics
“The Rules of Amateur Status.” “Growing the game.”
In the past, those phrases were seldom mentioned in the same breath.
But let’s give credit where it’s due. The Rules of Amateur Status are essential for preserving the integrity of the game by clearly delineating the difference between an amateur golfer and a pro. For example, amateurs must not accept payment or other compensation for giving instruction. (Golf instruction involves teaching the mechanics of swinging a club and hitting the ball.) That mandate belongs to PGA of Canada members.
But recent changes to those Rules offer an exception if the instruction is part of a program that has been approved in advance. To date, two programs—First Tee Canada and Iron Lady Golf—have been approved. Each application is reviewed jointly by Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada.
“This change provides a great opportunity to show how the Rules of Amateur Status can be a positive to support amateur golfers and grow the game, especially in underserved demographics,” says Mary Beth McKenna, Golf Canada’s Director of Amateur Championships and Rules. “It allows approved programs to compensate amateur golfers for their time when helping introduce people to the game.”
The Rule change doesn’t mean amateurs now can make a fulltime living doing this, McKenna emphasizes. What it allows is a reasonable amount of compensation for their time spent helping beginners, not teaching the game. Being an approved program means that the hours spent on instruction is restricted to ensure they fall within the approved parameters.
First Tee is Golf Canada’s multi-tiered youth development program. Iron Lady Golf is a well-established private initiative designed to introduce women to the game. (So far, more than 20,000.) The goal is to help make women feel more comfortable by having female coaches. But with women making up only a small fraction of the PGA of Canada’s membership, having a female pro in every session is nearly impossible.
So Iron Lady Golf’s founder, Lindsay Knowlton, a Class A PGA of Canada professional, relies on what she calls “ambassadors”, experienced amateurs who assist with the basic fundamentals of etiquette, rules and how to navigate your way around a golf course.
“When I got the news that our program had been approved, I was ecstatic because it meant we have the opportunity to introduce more women to golf in Canada,” Knowlton says. “We are passionate about helping more women say ‘yes’ to golf, making it more accessible and less intimidating. Our focus is working with beginner to intermediate golfers. When someone shows an interest in wanting more swing coaching, we can pass them along to a PGA pro.
“We provide encouragement, a sense of community and inclusion. That’s what keeps people in the game.”
The object of this specific Rule (Rule 4) is two-fold. First, to expand the wide end of the funnel to welcome more people, from more demographic segments, into the game. Second, to provide support and guidance to beginners from more experienced golfers who, in the case of Iron Lady Golf, look like them, i.e, female.
“This can be inspirational,” says McKenna. “To see an accomplished amateur or pro who is a woman means a lot and the comfort level goes up exponentially, especially for a beginner.”
For Knowlton, this Rules change is literally game-changing. And, she says, “it’s proof Golf Canada and the PGA of Canada are 100-per-cent committed to growing the game in Canada.”
Do you have a program you think would qualify? The modernized Rules of Amateur Status with helpful guidance note are available here.
First Tee celebrates 25 years of empowering youth through golf
Twenty-five years ago, on November 13, 1997, then-PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem was joined in New York City’s Central Park by representatives from the leading golf organizations – the LPGA, the Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, the PGA TOUR, and the USGA – public officials, including President George H. W. Bush, and golf dignitaries to announce the launch of First Tee.
Since that time, First Tee has grown into a preeminent youth development organization boasting a network of nearly 150 chapters with programs delivered at 1,400 golf courses, 10,000 schools and 1,700 youth centers in all 50 states and in Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Morocco. In 2021, First Tee impacted more than 2.2 million kids and teens. Additionally, more than 10,000 adults are involved each year in support of First Tee’s mission, many of whom have participated in First Tee’s signature positive youth development training.
Under the leadership of Finchem, First Tee was launched as an industrywide initiative to make golf affordable and accessible for all kids. As the first programs were being developed, First Tee began an intentional effort to seamlessly integrate the game of golf with a life skills curriculum, creating a program that empowers youth to build inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that they can carry to everything they do.
First Tee has been undergoing a modernization effort to stay relevant and connected to kids and teens now and in the future. It refreshed its brand for the first time in 2020 and recently released a robust age-based curriculum update to better position the organization to reach teens and keep kids engaged in the program longer. Technology efforts are also underway to centralize and better support program registration, adult training and onboarding, and tools for coaches. In
2023, the first participant-facing app will launch, providing supplemental digital experiences and gamification for young people in the program. In recent years, the organization also reinvested in its College Scholarship Program, and it touches hundreds of kids each year through national participant events, spanning from the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach to a five-day DEI-focused academy in Philadelphia.
“Since day one, First Tee has been intentional about reaching young people from diverse backgrounds, and that commitment continues today,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO. “Most years, between 40 and 50 percent of participants at chapters are non-Caucasian, and approximately 38% are female. Our network of chapter leaders, coaches, volunteers, board members and donors remain committed to breaking down barriers. And they continue to inspire me as we prepare for the future.”
Throughout this anniversary year, First Tee has highlighted its alumni who’ve gone on to careers in the golf industry and beyond. First Tee’s final alumni feature showcases Ariana Saenz, a former participant at First Tee – Greater Houston, who went on to play collegiate golf at the University of Houston and Texas A&M. Saenz is set to graduate with a master’s degree in human resources later this year and hopes to pursue a career in the golf industry.
“From age seven to 18, I was exposed to a set of morals and life skills at First Tee that poured the foundation for the woman I am today,” said Saenz. “Along the way, I earned a college golf scholarship and went from being a participant to a volunteer who learned the value of giving back to the community and serving others.”
Nov. 16-18, representatives from First Tee’s network of 150 chapters will convene in Dallas for its Network Summit – the first in five years – to celebrate the anniversary and continue building momentum for the future with robust workshops, training and peer-to-peer networking. The Summit is presented by Century Golf Partners and made possible by other corporate partners who stand behind First Tee’s mission.
The short game for First Tee programming may be rooted in golf, but the long game is much more than that. The main objective of First Tee – Canada youth development programming is for participants to use the life skills learned through golf to navigate their journeys through life and opportunities thought previously inaccessible.
Golf Canada launched its partnership with First Tee in 2020, and First Tee – Canada began in 2021 under the operation of its provincial chapters, delivering programming at golf facilities, schools, and community centres.
With summer programs wrapped up, First Tee – Ontario fall programming is underway at 20 locations across the province with curriculums developed for each environment and modified to different ages and abilities.
The activities use golf as a vehicle to reinforce life skills, focused on the program’s five key commitments: pursuing goals, growing through challenge, collaborating with others, building positive self-identity, and using good judgement. First Tee – Ontario provides instructors with interactive training, equipment, and turnkey lesson plans to deliver safe and inclusive programming.
Golf Canada’s commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusivity in golf is a driving force behind the growth of First Tee – Canada and its provincial chapters. The aim is to break down existing barriers to sport participation, particularly in traditionally marginalized communities, and ultimately diversify golf’s participant pool to more closely reflect the strength of Canada’s multiculturalism.
First Tee – Ontario Program Manager Amaya Athill is responsible for overseeing the implementation of programming across the province and having a hand in providing youth with empowering and life-changing experiences. At this year’s RBC Canadian Open, her team provided an extended experience for First Tee – Ontario community program participants from local Boys and Girls Clubs to show them what life on and off the tee box can look like.
“The messaging that children often see is that a successful career pathway in sports is to rise to the level of a professional competitor. There is so much that goes into running a professional golf tournament and event of that size, so the idea was to expose as many children as possible to a wider world of opportunities and careers within golf and the sports industry. This included behind-the-scenes tours of the agronomy, media, and volunteer services teams,” said Athill. “Access to these experiences and exposure to future opportunities in the sport is a gap we hope to bridge through First Tee.”
As both an accomplished human rights lawyer and golfer since the age of five, Athill’s professional background and personal relationship with the game intersect seamlessly with the First Tee program, as they all value accessibility and opportunity.
With Ontario’s chapter experiencing rapid short-term growth, Ian Gragtmans – First Tee – Ontario’s Founding Chapter Donor and Trustee – expressed excitement about recent strides and confidence that the Gragtmans Family Foundation’s decision to support this cause was the correct one.
His decision to support the launch of the program was less influenced by the game of golf, but rather by a desire to help support the long-term development journeys of First Tee program participants.
With the help of generous donors like the Gragtmans Family Foundation, Golf Canada has fast-tracked access to these spaces where youth can learn self-sustaining life skills in a program that has over 25 years of international experience.
Gragtmans shared his personal experience engaging people who were direct participants of First Tee in the U.S.
“I have been fortunate enough to spend time in the U.S. – meeting and speaking with some of the participants that have gone through the program, and it’s nothing shy of remarkable to see what the potential is for those that may not otherwise, if not for First Tee, had that opportunity, or exposure,” said Gragtmans.
The Golf Canada Foundation is continuously pursuing gifts, which allow First Tee – Ontario to expand its locations across the province and further impact the lives of Canadian youth. To get involved, please visit www.firstteeontario.ca.