By Jerry Del Priore
The United States Golfing Association (USGA) has awarded a $5,000 grant to the First Tee of Metropolitan New York, a youth development organization impacting the lives of young people through the game of golf in the New York/New Jersey area.
The announcement was made yesterday at the USGA’s U.S. Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
The grant is one of 25 being awarded nationwide to First Tee chapters located in or around USGA Championships and Allied Golf Associations as part of the organization’s strategy to leave a positive impact on its local host communities.
Founded in Florida in 1997, First Tee — as part of the World Golf Foundation, in partnership with golf governing bodies, which include PGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America, Masters Tour, and LPGA — is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization with over 130 chapters nationwide, according to Matt Rawitzer, Director of Business Development for the New York location.
Rawitzer said the New York chapter, which started in 2001 and encompasses five campuses through the region, serves approximately 6,000 youth, ages five-17, who would otherwise miss out on hitting the links and learning important life lessons through the sport due to golf’s high-cost without the program.
“We serve folks of youth who would not have the opportunity to be exposed to the game of golf due to economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said. “76 percent of our participants receive some sort of financial assistance, either in full or part.”
But it’s not just about the back nine and sandtraps.
In addition to golf, Rawitzer said the children receive tutoring, STEM education, SAT Prep, comprehensive after school programming, and college scholarships through the Path to College Program.
Plus, they are taught nine core values: honesty, integrity, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. And nine healthy habits: Physical — energy, play, and safety; Emotional — vision, mind, and family; Social — friends, school, and community.
Rawitzer sang the praises of the program’s coaches for being a big reason why First Tee of Metropolitan NY has been so productive in child enrichment throughout the years.
“We take a lot of pride in our coaches, and believe they are a key reason why we are successful as were are,” Rawitzer said.
If the participants are wholeheartedly earnest in their efforts to learn the sport and participate to the fullest in the program, Rawitzer said, “they get to play on some of the finest courses in the area. But only to the ones who are more serious and dedicated to the program and game, generally speaking, because they’re limited opportunities.”
Among the program’s success stories is Megha Ganne, a 15-year-old amateur golfer from Holmdel, New Jersey, who has qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, and the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) currently ranks her 55th in the world.
Rawitzer said Ganne has been with the First Tee Metropolitan New York since she was eight years old, and is “one of the best junior golfers out there,” playing at Weequahic Park Golf Club in Newark, New Jersey.
For more information on the First Tee of Metropolitan New York and ways to give back, click on the link to the left.