Barrow, son of the legendary heavyweight boxing champion and The First Tee founder Joe Louis, is also the self-proclaimed “Chief Evangelist” of the non-profit organization. In his remarks to about 35 invited guests, Barrow emphasized the importance of developing a child’s self respect through golf. A recent study found, Barrow said, that 96% of the young people surveyed said they could transfer respect from the golf context to respect for their parents, their siblings and their school environment. “And how valuable is that?” he asked the crowd.
The First Tee’s 204 United States and worldwide chapters partner with schools, YMCAs and other organizations to bring golf to children who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn the game or its life skills. Among its many outreach programs, The First Tee is part of the America’s Promise Alliance Grad Nation campaign, announced on March 1, to reduce the nation’s drop-out rate by 50% in 2018. Last year The First Tee partnered with the Department of Defense to bring The First Tee to children of men and women of the United States Armed Forces. By the end of 2010 they expect to be active on 120 military installations, including 20 bases in overseas locations.
Barrow praised the Washington, DC chapter for their consistent programming during their ten years of existence. The chapter served 6,000 area children last year through partnering with 50 District of Columbia public schools and other organizations, according to chapter president Kathryn Rand. By bringing The First Tee into the schools as well as to the Langston Golf Course and East Potomac Park, the chapter expects to teach life skills via golf to 6,500 kids in 2010.
The chapter also hosted the Northeast Regional Challenge last year, a two-day golf tournament for area The First Tee golfers. Each young golfer’s score was based both the golf score and knowledge of life skills, with more emphasis placed on the life skill questions. Held last July, the Northeast Regional Challenge also offered the children a Capitol tour and a trip to the AT&T National Golf Tournament at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.
Major donors for the Washington, DC chapter of The First Tee include Southern Company, Altria, AT&T, FedEx, Walmart, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon and celebrity Maury Povich, as well as individual donors and grants. That sponsorship, said Rand, allows their chapter to be one of only a few that offers the golf program to students at no cost, as well as free training for the District of Columbia public school physical education teachers who participate in the program.
And you can’t beat that with a nine iron.