First Tee of Canton | Nonprofit Spotlight

Golf can be more than just a game or sport. For First Tee of Canton, it’s also a way to reach young people in Stark County.

Golf can be more than just a game or sport. For First Tee of Canton, it’s also a way to reach young people in Stark County.

“Our goal is to impact the lives of young people throughout our area by providing a safe, affordable learning environment and educational programs that promote healthy habits, positive character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf,” said Doug Mills, executive director. “What separates The First Tee from all other junior golf programs is our life skills curriculum. We believe that golf is ‘more than a game’ whose rules are founded in and reflect basic core values of courtesy, respect, judgment, responsibility, sportsmanship, confidence, honesty, integrity and perseverance.”

first_tee_2Each hole at the nine-hole, par 27 instructional facility on 25th Street NE, across from the former Northeast Community Center, is named for one of those core values.

Founded in 1997, The First Tee was an initiative of the World Golf Foundation. Founding members of that foundation were the LPGA, the PGA of America, the PGA Tour, the USGA and the Masters Tournament, along with corporate partner Shell Oil Company. Their mission was to create affordable and accessible golf facilities to primarily serve those who had not previously had exposure to the game and its positive values.

In December 1999, a committee led by Gregg Schorsten as chairman filed documentation to initiate the formation of the local chapter in Canton as a nonprofit charitable organization. With the help of Mayor Richard Watkins and Canton City Council, 14 acres of land that had previously been used as a dump was proposed as a site to reclaim and the facility was planned. More than $700,000 was raised to begin the project in the spring of 2003.

“Our program truly is a home-grown endeavor for without the financial assistance provided by our local organizations — this simply would not have been possible,” Mills said.

first_tee_3On Aug. 16, 2004, the course was dedicated at an opening ceremony.

Throughout the construction process, programming was conducted at affiliate sites and as after-school programs.

The program continued to grow and expand its outreach every year since the first classes were held in the summer of 2004.

No one is excluded. It is a program open to any young person who wants to learn.

“We have kids from Stark, Summit, Wayne and Tuscarawas counties enrolled in our program — represent- ing more than 100 various schools throughout our area,” Mills said. “Within just the last two years, having the capacity to now offer year- round programs and lessons, we have been able to reach more than 1,155 students during 2010 and 1,335 in 2011 respectively with our spring and fall classes, summer camps, school and outreach programs.”

ABOUT FIRST TEE

WHAT: A junior golf program that teaches the basic core values of courtesy, respect, judgment, responsibility, sportsmanship, confidence, honesty, integrity and perseverance. Located at 2525 25th St. NE, Canton. BOARD MEMBERS: Shawn Katusin, chairman; Brent Belles, vice chairman; Joe Ovnic, treasurer ; Abby Marchisio, secretary; Eric Belden, John Belden, Scott DeMuesy, Steve Deuble, Aaron Geh, Dustin Hennessy, Stephanie Hatheway,Tim Hudec, Jim Logue, Josh Marks, Charles MacDonald, Chuck Moore, Bill Nolan, Lou Poppovich, Katherine Siegfried, Bob Stewart, Ryan Walls, Mike Walpole and Javan Yoder.

PROCEEDS: Donations go toward maintaining the program and cover expenses. A golf outing fundraiser is scheduled for May 20 at Congress Lake Club. Call 330-452-5331 for more information.

DONATIONS: Checks should be made payable toThe FirstTee of Canton and mailed to The First Tee of Canton, P.O. Box 7555, Canton, OH 44705. Pledges made by credit cards also are welcome. Pledge forms can be downloaded from www.thefirstteecanton.org.