Children in elementary schools across the Peninsula School Districts will soon be introduced to the game of golf.
The First Tee of South Puget Sound organization is donating equipment and resources to the district to use during its physical education classes, beginning in the fall.
Each school’s P.E. teachers will undergo a short training session in late August. PSD elementary schools will be equipped with SNAG bags — which stands for “Starting New at Golf” — which come with clubs with plastic, larger heads, tennis-type balls and targets that the ball sticks to: Hence, the “snag.”
The equipment is safe and can be used indoors and outdoors.
“A lot of these kids in the schools have never touched a golf club,” said Brian Archer, First Tee of South Puget Sound’s Outreach and National School Program coordinator. “We’ve had huge success with this program.”
It’s already been implemented in the Tacoma School District. And now it’s coming to the PSD, as a free donation to the district. It will be a completely no-cost program for the district to implement. The program will take place inside all elementary schools.
The biggest bonus is being able to get golf clubs into the hands of kids who otherwise might never pick up a golf club.
“I think that’s the real opportunity: There’s a lot of kids and families that don’t think they have the economic means to play golf,” said Dave Tison, who is a coach with the First Tee organization and teaches multiple days per week at Madrona Links Golf Course in Gig Harbor. “They think of golf as being outside of their reach because of finances. They think of it as a rich guys’ sport. So being able to supply clubs and show them you can enjoy golf without having tremendous financial means is huge.”
It’s a lesson that’s near and dear to the heart of Madrona golf pro Shane Henderson, who is also involved with First Tee as a coach and is the girls golf coach for Gig Harbor High School.
“My dad just gave me old hand-me-down clubs,” Henderson said. “He could only really afford to take us out once or twice a year. If not for him, I never would’ve got a chance to experience golf. I don’t know if I’d be playing it right now. None of my friends in school played.”
Seeing the kids experience the sport for the first time brings joy to the instructors.
“I really enjoy working with the kids,” Archer said. “I think it’s such a challenging sport, so when they do hit a good shot, it’s just instant gratification.”
The simple joy of hitting a good tee shot, or chipping one into the hole, brings back vivid memories for Henderson.
“You see yourself as a kid living the same experiences,” he said. “You recognize the experiences and smiles and you want them to have those same experiences.”
The First Tee’s mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf by reinforcing values like integrity, respect and perseverance through golf. This is the first time the program will be part of the Peninsula School District’s physical education curriculum.
“When I start my classes, I have the parents there as well, on the first day,” Tison said. “It’s not solely golf instruction. What I want to do is talk about these life skills and the nine core values with the kids. Over the course of eight weeks, we go through all the values and help them understand how they can be incorporated into day-to-day life. That’s why I’m involved — to help kids understand that.”
Those interested in learning more about The First Tee and the after-school and summer programs it offers in the area can visit thefirsttee.org for additional information.