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First Tee teaches life lessons

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Dominic Pacheco, left, and Luis Hernandez display some team camaraderie Wednesday during their first golf lesson from First Tee offered at the Boys and Girls Club on South Garden Avenue. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Can golf lead to a better life for the average kid?

Coach Zachary Blair of First Tee teaches Boys and Girls Club youth how to chip, and how to honor safety zones and practice concern for fellow players, during a first lesson at the club Wednesday. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Certainly, talented athletes can see their lives changed by the sport, but a local nonprofit also says golf lessons serve as a conduit for passing along life skills as well as tips about the sport itself.

First Tee, which has provided youth programs for preschoolers to high school students in the region for more than 12 years, is working again with the Boys and Girls Club in Roswell on South Garden Avenue, said Rebecca Porte, First Tee event and program coordinator.

“Our goal is to teach life skills actually through the game of golf,” said Porte, “and we have a focus of nine core values such as integrity, respect, courtesy, confidence, things along that line, that we work into lessons involving golf.”

She said that the organization received a donation that is enabling it to provide one-hour lessons to about 40 school-age kids at the Boys and Girls Club twice a week for the next four weeks. The donation was used to purchase specialized equipment used indoors, Porte said.

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Porte said that the program has been offered at the local Boys and Girls Club before but was on hiatus for about a year as Roswell club went through some reorganization and facility updates.

Boys and Girls Club Program Director Gwen Peterson said that the club offers its own activities for youth but also thinks the First Tee program can help youth improve themselves.

“We aren’t just about passing time or babysitting,” Peterson said. “We want people to leave here having gained some skills and knowledge.”

Porte said First Tee participants learn the fundamentals of golf but also see how core values taught during the lessons can translate to all areas of life. For example, youth learn that respect for the rules of the game, for the established safety zones and fellow participants can be expressed in their classrooms and their homes.

“Perseverance, that’s a great one both for the game of life and golf,” she said. ‘It is easy to give up and say, I am never going to try this again. So we want to teach them the skill of perseverance to get up and get up and try again until they succeed.”

First Tee, which is headed by Executive Director Adrienne Fields and has its main office on the New Mexico Military Institute golf course, offers programs in several cities in southeastern New Mexico including Hobbs, Carlsbad, Lovington and Ruidoso. Its staff and coaches often work through local schools, church sports camps, youth organizations and city recreation programs. They also offer their own after-school and summer programs.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.