Thousands of kids ages 5 and up are teeing up across eastern South Dakota through an Avera sponsored non-profit program called First Tee of South Dakota. Kids learn about the game of golf and the rules of life.
Jack Olson, Nick Hoffman and Isaac Jansa are 4th graders just getting into the swing of golf and already have been bitten by the birdie bug.
Nick says, "I like driving the ball and putting. I like everything about it."
They are all in First Tee of South Dakota. A youth golf program designed to build character while teaching the game of golf. Former Golf Pro Julie Jansa is the Executive Director.
Jansa says, "It's a lifelong sport, there's not very many sports you can play until your 80. We even have people in their 90's out on the course so it really is a sport you can enjoy for a life."
Avera Health is the corporate and primary sponsor of First Tee which is offered in 5 communities. They include Sioux Falls, Yankton, Aberdeen, Huron and Watertown. There's a 10 week summer program and a school based program where students learn golf during P.E. classes. Both programs include 9 Core Values that inherently go with the game: integrity, sportsmanship, courtesy, judgment, respect, confidence, honesty, responsibility and perseverance. Julie also teaches the 4 r's.
Jack Olson tells me, "They are re-think, relax, ready and re-do."
My golf coach was a stickler for the rules on the course and at home because it was my dad Whitey. He taught me early on never to stand directly behind someone who's hitting because it's a distraction for them. He also said to never talk in someone's backswing. All the rules of golf etiquette can relate back to having good manner's in everyday activities.
Julie Jansa says, "Respect is one of our 9 core values and it's also part of the First Tee code of conduct. You have to have respect for yourself and your surroundings and you can relate that to golf and in real life."
Lessons not lost on any of these kids.
Nick says, "She taught us life skills, respect, etiquette and other life skills."
Jack says, "She taught us how to be positive and patient and taught us the 4 r's and that comes in handy."
The game of golf can be frustrating at times as is life sometimes. They have plenty of time to learn about the latter, but you're never too young to learn respect and hopefully that will be par for the course forever.
Registration opens up at the end of February for the 10 week summer program. For more information visit: www.thefirstteesouthdakota.org