By Brian Swartz
Weekly Staff Editor
BANGOR — This summer 96 youngsters can learn about golf via The First Tee, a national program being introduced at Bangor Municipal Golf Course.
Open to children from ages 7 to 14 (or entering the ninth grade), The First Tee will introduce participants to golf and its fundamentals, according to Rob Jarvis, the assistant golf professional at Bangor Muni. “The goal is not to make them aspiring tour players,” but “to give them experience at a place where they can feel comfortable … and have fun,” he said.
Headquartered at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., The First Tee has established a mission “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,” according to www.thefirsttee.org. The program has a code of conduct
Bangor Muni officials considered introducing The First Tee because “we were looking for something more long term for the kids,” Jarvis said. He explained that many sports — such as baseball and soccer — have “feeder programs” that introduce children to the respective sports at young ages.
“Golf really doesn’t have anything like that,” he said.
“We’ve had a good junior program,” but participants would only “be here for three days, and they would be done. The First Tee will run throughout the summer, so the kids will have more time to learn the fundamentals,” Jarvis said.
The First Tee program will start on Friday, June 24 and will run for eight weeks. Two sessions — 9-11 a.m., Monday and 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesday — will be offered; a participant selects a particular session and day. Maximum enrollment is 24 youngsters per session and 96 youngsters for the program.
The cost is $80 per participant for the full eight weeks.
Jarvis will be The First Tee coach; assisting him will be Bangor Muni staffers Matt Grant and Brian Johnson. “We will tailor the lessons to the kids’ skills levels,” Jarvis said. “Equipment will be provided” at no additional cost, but “it helps the kids if they have their own clubs. They don’t need to buy anything to participate.”
But The First Tee “is about more than golf,” Jarvis said. “Other aspects of the program expand the lessons beyond golf specifics.”
Besides learning about golf, The First Tee participants will learn the program’s “Nine Core Values”:
“We’re helping the parents instill these things into their children, but we’re doing it with golf,” Jarvis said.
The program also stresses “Nine Healthy Habits,” divided into three categories:
• Physical: energy, play, and safety;
• Emotional: vision, mind, and family;
• Social: friends, school, and community.
Each First Tee session “will start with a warm-up to learn fitness,” Jarvis said. “We want the kids to learn that fitness can be fun.”
In addition to The First Tee lessons, program participants at Bangor Muni “will also learn about the environment,” he said. Through an agreement with the National Audubon Society, Bangor Muni will soon become an NAS-approved golf course, a rating that “recognizes our commitment to the environment,” Jarvis explained.
“The Portland Country Club is the only other” course to achieve this rating in Maine, he said.
As part of the National Audubon program, “we let some non-golf areas grow wild,” Jarvis said. Besides reducing mowing and herbicide application, this decision created wildlife habitat in various places on the 27-hole golf course.
“We want to set an example and show people [that] the city [of Bangor] cares for the environment,” Jarvis explained. “As part of the Audubon Society rating, we must have an outreach and educational segment. This is where The First Tee comes in; as part of their lessons, the kids will learn about protecting the environment.”
In March Jarvis taught The First Tee with participating local children at the Golf House in Nashville, Tenn. “It was a training week,” he said. “Some of the head coaches of the whole program were there.
“It is such a well thought-out program. In time it’s going to change the face of golf, I think,” Jarvis said.
He is already fielding calls from local parents who have heard about The First Tee. For more information, call 941-0232 or log onto thefirstteemaine.org or bangorgolfschool.com.