First Tee a first in Pierce County

After undertaking an exhaustive process for accreditation, The First Tee of South Puget Sound became a reality Thursday.

The local nonprofit organization was officially approved by the national association as the 23rd active in-state First Tee chapter – but the first one in Pierce County.

“It was kind of surreal, in a way,” said Matt Enloe, The First Tee of South Puget Sound’s executive director. “We are real excited about what we can do now, and how we can represent the First Tee in an official capacity.”

The First Tee’s primary directive is to teach children of all backgrounds about the game of golf – its core values of sportsmanship and integrity, as well as how to play.

A local group, led by Enloe, sent a letter of intention to the national First Tee board for approval in May 2010 – giving the group one year to comply with all the application requirements:

 • A formal agreement with a local golf course for at least 10 years had to be arranged. The First Tee of South Puget Sound found two – Meadow Park Golf Course in Tacoma, and Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

 • The group had to come up with a viable executive board. Currently, 17 members from around the South Sound sit on the board, and PGA Tour professionals Ryan Moore, Michael Putnam, Kyle Stanley and Andres Gonzales and United States Golf Association official Larry Gilhuly make up an advisory board.

 • Lastly, and the one element that most often trips up organizers, was raising 25 percent of The First Tee of South Puget Sound’s first-year budget, which roughly was $30,000. Officials secured the money mainly through private donations – with some assistance from Metro Parks.

Also, $17,000 raised at Gonzales’ charity tournament last month at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club will go directly to that budget.

With the requirements met, Enloe submitted the organization’s business plan to Cathy Wagner, the First Tee’s senior director on the West Coast. She then presented it to the national board Thursday in Florida, where she received approval.

The First Tee of South Puget Sound’s fall programs start Sept. 12 at both local courses. Also, the chapter will hold its first charity benefit Sept. 30 at Fircrest Golf Club, and spots are still available for that.

Any questions, contact Enloe at matt@thefirstteesouthpugetsound.org.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@thenewstribune.com