When you first walk onto the greens at New Mexico Military Institute’s golf course, one will notice a separate section of little kids with golf clubs in their hands. Children are laughing and having fun as they learn lessons in the program’s nine core values.
First Tee’s program is rooted in their nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance and courtesy and judgment. The program has children ranging from 3- to 16-year-olds.
Coaches are on hand to give instructions. Program Director Rebecca Porte walks around to see if she can be of service to coaches, parents and kids. First Tee Executive Director Adrienne Fields smiles and has a kind word for each kid.
First Tee has become Fields’ family. She started as a volunteer in 2005 and worked her way up to executive director in 2011. The program started in 1997 in New York as an international organization. Roswell became a member in 2005 and has been headquartered at NMMI since its inception.
The main goal for First Tee has been to grow the game of golf and make it accessible to kids from all walks of life. The program started with one school in it and now has 15,000 kids in the program. Roswell has 6,500 kids involved, including every Roswell Independent School District elementary school with participation from grades kindergarten through fifth grade.
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One of the things the program will teach is how to give a proper, firm handshake. Little things that people take for granted but have to be taught. The little things that mean a lot later in life.
Another of the core values Fields believes is important is confidence.
“I think confidence does lead to success,” Fields said. “If you have confidence on the golf course, you will have confidence in school, at home and in life.”
Kids can take a field trip to the program twice a year, in the fall and spring. The Roswell community has supported the First Tee program and sponsored kids through scholarships with donations of their time, finances and clubs to reach the whole community.
First Tee in return offers scholarships to the Down Syndrome Foundation. They also work with the Boys and Girls Club. When members of the First Tee turn 15-16 years old, they can still participate in the program by being an intern, mentor or employee.
“NMMI has been a great partner of ours from the beginning,” Fields said. “(Maj.) Gen. (Jerry) Grizzle is a great supporter of ours. The community of Roswell and RISD have also been great partners of ours as well.” In the future, First Tee would like to add more kids and provide scholarships for kids that want to go to college. Fields noted that there are several scholarships for female golfers that go unclaimed each year because there are not enough female golfers that apply for them.
First Tee is not only a program about golf but also for friends and families to bond together. It is a healthy way to spend time together. The program will teach skills that will last a lifetime.
“We are so truly, truly blessed,” Fields said. “We are so lucky to call the NMMI Golf Course our home. I want to help people with this program, to be the solution and impact more kids.”
Fields says the beauty of First Tee — it’s for everybody.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.