The world we face today is so vastly different than what we could have ever imagined 10 years ago (or even 10 months ago!). Aside from the uncertainty and stress stemming from COVID-19, this generation has grown up with technology that can rattle the self-esteem of even the most confident kids. Social pressures are always on, and finding a calm respite can feel impossible — both for children and adults. In these particularly challenging times, it is critical that we encourage our kids and teens to talk through the concerns, fears and anxieties they are feeling, and equip them with the tools to face these challenges head-on. Our coaches empower kids so they feel excited to grow, safe to fail, and better equipped for whatever comes their way next. Through fun and meaningful programs, our coaches introduce participants to a four step decision-making approach we call STAR:


When you face a challenge in life, the first step in deciding how to overcome it is to STOP what you are doing or what you are getting ready to do. This allows you to pause and gives your mind a break.


The next step in good decision-making is to THINK of your choices. What are some of the choices you have in this situation? Take time to think of as many choices as possible.


The third step is to ANTICIPATE the consequences (good or bad) of each choice. When you anticipate the consequences of each choice, think how the choice will affect your ability to reach your goals.


After you have identified all your choices and you have anticipated the consequences of each choice, the final step is to RESPOND by picking the best choice. What makes something the best choice? The best choice is the one that helps you get to your goal. What one person considers the best choice may differ from what another thinks is best. Empowering kids and teens through a lifetime of new challenges is at the heart of First Tee of Howard County. This unprecedented time in history is scary, but we can also seize the opportunity it allows us to connect with our children and grow our perseverance together.

COVID-19 Updates

Dear First Tee of Howard County Families: We are thinking of you during this challenging time and wishing that we could welcome our participants back to Fairway Hills this spring.
As always, the health and safety of our community is our top priority. Under the current directive from Governor Hogan that all non-essential businesses close and Marylanders practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, Fairway Hills and First Tee of Howard County remain closed.
At this time, we plan to hold the summer session and will automatically move your child’s spring session enrollment into the same class this summer.
>> If you would prefer to withdraw your child and receive a refund for spring tuition, please email [email protected] with the following information: your name, student’s name, class number and home address.
>> If you wish to move your spring registration to the same class this summer, no action is needed.
We will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Hogan and update our plans if needed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
Amidst these uncertain times, we have the opportunity to put the life skills we teach at First Tee of Howard County into practice. Responsibility, judgment and perseverance are especially important right now. We hope you are staying safe and healthy, and look forward to seeing your children when we can re-open.
Don Van Deusen
Executive Director, First Tee of Howard County

2020 National Opportunities for Teen Participants

First Tee’s junior golf program doesn’t just get kids on the course; it offers them exciting opportunities for growth. With the help of corporate partners, First Tee hosts a series of national events for more advanced participants from chapter across the country, allowing them to meet new people, play some golf, achieve greatness, and show off our nine core values in action. See the schedule of this year’s opportunities and application deadlines below. Our chapter hosted an informative meeting for parents and teens on February 13 at Fairway Hills, led by mother/daughter duo Michelle and Logan Lurie, who offered firsthand insights into these awesome national opportunities. If you missed the meeting, their presentation is available here.  >>ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR NATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

2020 Golf Mania sweepstakes to benefit our chapter

First Tee of Howard County is once again selling Charity Mania golf sweepstakes tickets for 2020 — a great opportunity to sharpen your focus on the four golf majors*, support our area’s premier youth development organization, and have the chance to win cash prizes! PGA Championship August 6-9, 2020
U.S. Open: September 17-20, 2020 The Masters: November 12-15, 2020
Details of Charity Mania Fantasy Golf Sweepstakes This is “Fantasy Golf” without the work and commitment, for a great cause! Tickets can be purchased online, or by calling us at 410-730-1114 or emailing [email protected]. We had about 15 winners last year from $25 to $200. 
These tickets also come with absolutely free music downloads for up and coming artists.
So jump on in! And yes, if you delay until after the PGA Championship cutoff (days before the tournament) your $20 ticket will be good for the next majors, so greatest value goes to the early purchasers!
*Unfortunately, the 2020 British Open was cancelled due to COVID-19. GolfMania will use scores from a replacement tournament (The Masters) to calculate winners.  Therefore, when the Masters is played, GolfMania will calculate winners for both the British Open and the Masters contests at the same time, but independent of each other. 

The golfers assigned to the British Open on all GolfMania game cards will be awarded scores from their performance in The Masters on November 12-15.  The odds of winning and calculation of winners will be the same as if the British Open had been played.  The winners for this contest will simply be based on the golfers’ scores from The Masters instead.

College Scholarship Applications due March 31, 2020

At First Tee, we believe that helping young people build strength of character is fundamental to success in life. Our active learning experiences are all about ensuring young people build inner strength, self-confidence and resilience, so when they face new challenges they are equipped to overcome them. Going beyond our core programs, the enhanced First Tee College Scholarship Program is designed to provide further support, life skill development and mentorship of our alumni through their journey. Higher education continues to be a critical factor in unlocking opportunities for young people to thrive, and First Tee is committed to their success. First Tee College Scholarship Program supports selected alumni throughout their college career. The need and merit-based program provides scholarships up to $5,000 per year, renewable for up to four years of college admission. The program also provides professional development workshops, access to internships and full-time employment placement post-graduation. One of the key factors of the program is pairing Scholars with a dedicated adult mentor who will help encourage and guide them throughout the four years. The program is open to graduating high school seniors planning to attend college the following year. Applicants must be active members of First Tee chapters and will be considered based on financial need, academic performance, chapter involvement, volunteerism and other criteria.

2020 Application Timeline:

  • Applications: Available Now
  • Application Deadline: March 31, 2020
  • First Tee Scholars Announcement: May 31, 2020

Eligibility Criteria:


    • High school senior
    • Minimum score of 28 on the ACT and/or 1340 on the SAT
    • Minimum 3.3 GPA on a 4.0 grading scale
    • Intent to attend a four-year accredited college or university in Fall 2020
    • Participation in mandatory pre-college retreat (July 27-29, 2020) and professional development workshops (Dec. 17-18, 2020)


    • Registered and active in First Tee headquarters database at time of application deadline
    • Involved in chapter activities at the time of application submission
      • Participants who have spent a longer amount of time in First Tee programs will receive higher consideration
    • Evidence of responsible volunteerism or citizenship through meaningful involvement in community and/or civic activities


    • Dependent upon the financial circumstances of the family (Tax Return, FAFSA/Student Aid Report info required)
    • Dependent upon cost of attendance at college or university

Local Teen Achieves Top Certification from National Youth Development Organization First Tee

 Thomas Nickel from First Tee of Howard County among 23 National Ace-Certified Recipients in 2019

  Columbia, MD (November 26, 2019) – Thomas Nickel from First Tee of Howard County has achieved Ace certification, the highest level of certification from First Tee, a national youth development organization dedicated to impacting young people by building character and instilling life-enhancing values through the game of golf. Thomas is one of 23 participants this year, and one of 157 since 2006, to achieve Ace certification. To become Ace-certified, participants must complete four major projects – Community Service, Career, Educational Opportunities and Golf – which are submitted and reviewed by a national committee. It is a notable feat and the honorable culmination of hours of volunteering, goal-setting, preparation and practice. “Completing the Ace program took a lot of time, work and self-discipline, but was definitely worth it as I learned more about my golf game, my future and myself through the unique opportunities involved. Beyond that, I discovered how much fun volunteering could be, and feel like I found my calling when I started coaching younger First Tee kids,” said Nickel. “We could not be more proud of Thomas. Less than 1 percent of First Tee participants achieve Ace certification, so he is now among a small, elite group of junior golfers nationwide with this distinction” commented Don Van Deusen, executive director of First Tee of Howard County. Ace certification is the final step and the pinnacle of the First Tee program. Participants can work towards Ace certification after completing PLAYer, Par, Birdie and Eagle level certifications. The certification process requires a higher level of personal planning through First Tee’s Life Skills Experience that includes interpersonal communication, self-management, goal-setting, self-coaching and resiliency skills — building an important foundation for success in higher education and career planning. Nickel has been a participant at First Tee of Howard County since age eight, and is active on the speech and debate team, a capella group and choir, and is also a school ambassador at Loyola Blakefield where he is a junior. For more information about First Tee of Howard County, visit www.firstteehowardcounty.org. To request an interview with Thomas Nickel or Don Van Deusen, contact Lindsley Stys at [email protected]   *** About First Tee of Howard County: The First Tee of Howard County is one of the county’s premier youth organizations, providing life-skills instruction through the game of golf. Founded in 2000 and headquartered at the Fairway Hills Golf Course in Columbia, Maryland, the program is centered on nine core personal values that children aged 5 to 18, put into practice on the golf course, at home, at school and in every aspect of their lives. The First Tee’s Life Skills Experience allows participants to learn valuable lessons such as the importance of maintaining a positive attitude; how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences; how to define and set goals; and how to transfer values such as responsibility, honesty, integrity, respect, confidence and sportsmanship from the golf course to everyday life. Sessions are currently offered throughout the year at more than five local courses. For more information visit www.firstteehowardcounty.org, like us on Facebook, email [email protected] or call 410.730.1114. ###

First Tee of Howard County Teen Selected to Compete in PGA TOUR Champions PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee

Branden Nguyen heads to Pebble Beach this month Columbia, Maryland (September 16, 2019) – The First Tee and PGA TOUR Champions have announced that Branden Nguyen will represent The First Tee of Howard County when he competes in the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee, an official PGA TOUR Champions event to be contested at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California, September 24-29. The 16th annual event, which is hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, will be televised internationally on Golf Channel.
Branden Nguyen (Photo credit: Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Branden Nguyen, a senior at Atholton High School, has participated in The First Tee of Howard County for the past seven years. It was friendly competition between siblings that motivated him to take up golf; his older sister, Bryana, worked her way up through The First Tee of Howard County levels, going on to graduate from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill on a golf scholarship and become a professional golfer. In fact, Branden attended this same tournament back in 2011, cheering on Bryana as she played with PGA Tour member, Fred Funk. Branden’s accolades include serving as captain as the Atholton golf team, where he led in average scoring for the entire county last year, placed third in district championships and in the top 15 golfers in states. He is also a member of Atholton’s Letterman’s Club. In addition, Branden works as the assistant golf coach for the MAPGA Jr. League at Hobbit’s Glen. “We are thrilled that Branden has earned this well-deserved opportunity to represent The First Tee of Howard County on a national stage,” said Don Van Deusen, executive director of The First Tee of Howard County. “His hard work and commitment both on and off the golf course has led to this experience of a lifetime, and we know that Branden will make our community proud at Pebble Beach.” “It is a great opportunity to be one of the few selected to play at Pebble Beach with the Champions tour,” commented Branden. “I’m excited to represent my hometown chapter, The First Tee of Howard County, and cannot wait to play one of the most prestigious golf courses in the world. On top of that, my family will be there by my side. It’s going to be an awesome week.”
The Nguyen family (Branden, center front) at the 2011 PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach.
The PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee is the only event of its kind where 78 First Tee teenagers from across the country are paired up with 78 PGA TOUR Champions players and 156 amateurs during an official PGA TOUR Champions tournament. Nguyen will compete for the Pro-Junior Team title. He will join 77 other participants from First Tee chapters across the country. Participants were selected by a national panel of judges based on their understanding and application of the values and life skills learned through First Tee’s programs, as well as their playing ability. “We are proud to continue our involvement with this prestigious event and help support the great work of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation and First Tee,” said Katherine Frattarola, Chief Marketing Officer of the PURE Group of Insurance Companies. “The impact this event has on the incredible young men and women from the First Tee makes this sponsorship tremendously rewarding for our entire team.” The full junior field was revealed live on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” on July 3, including a video of World Golf Hall of Fame Member Jack Nicklaus surprising one of the First Tee participants. Other surprises by PGA TOUR players and Golf Channel hosts had been recorded over the last month and aired today as part of the PURE Insurance Championship announcement. This year’s field of professionals will include World Golf Hall of Fame Members Bernhard Langer, Mark O’Meara, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen, as well as defending champion and recent KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship winner Ken Tanigawa. Clint Eastwood serves as chairman of the PURE Insurance Championship. Play will be conducted on Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course on Friday and Saturday, with the final round contested solely at Pebble Beach Golf Links on Sunday, where 23 First Tee juniors will compete based on their 36-hole performance. The tournament will crown one male and one female First Tee Junior Champion on Sunday. Nearly 1,000 teens from First Tee have played in the PURE Insurance Championship, experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet, play and be mentored by PGA TOUR Champions players and amateurs in the field. The First Tee is a youth development organization dedicated to helping young people build character through the game of golf. The First Tee of Howard County is one of 150 chapters around the world introducing the sport of golf and First Tee’s Core Values to kids, positively impacting their lives. Serving the Howard County area since 2000, more than 20,000 kids have been impacted through The First Tee of Howard County’s programs. To learn more about First Tee of County, visit www.firstteehowardcounty.org. For more information on the 2019 PURE Insurance Championship, visit www.pureinsurancechampionship.com. For more information on Branden Nguyen, to request an interview or photos, contact Lindsley Stys at [email protected] or 443.824.6079.   *** About The First Tee of Howard County The First Tee of Howard County is one of the county’s premier youth organizations, providing life-skills instruction through the game of golf. Founded in 2000 and headquartered at the Fairway Hills Golf Course in Columbia, Maryland, the program is centered on nine core personal values that children aged 5 to 18, put into practice on the golf course, at home, at school and in every aspect of their lives. The First Tee’s Life Skills Experience allows participants to learn valuable lessons such as the importance of maintaining a positive attitude; how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences; how to define and set goals; and how to transfer values such as responsibility, honesty, integrity, respect, confidence and sportsmanship from the golf course to everyday life. Sessions are currently offered throughout the year at more than five local courses. For more information visit www.firstteehowardcounty.org, like us on Facebook, email [email protected] or call 410.730.1114.   About Monterey Peninsula Foundation Monterey Peninsula Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization which donates funds from the proceeds of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA TOUR and the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee, a PGA TOUR Champions tournament. The Foundation focuses on improving the quality of life in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties. www.attpbgolf.com www.pureinsurancechampionship.com   About PURE Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (PURE) is a member-owned reciprocal insurer dedicated to creating an exceptional experience for responsible high net worth individuals and families. PURE provides customizable coverage for high-value homes, automobiles, jewelry, art, personal liability, watercraft, flood, fraud and cyber fraud to more than 75,000 responsible, high net worth families throughout the U.S.  Inspired by some of the finest policyholder-owned companies, PURE emphasizes alignment of interests and transparency. PURE’s low cost of capital, careful member selection and proactive risk management all contribute to highly competitive rates. In return for a fee, PURE Risk Management, LLC acts as Attorney-in-Fact for PURE. PURE membership is subject to an executed Subscriber’s Agreement & Power of Attorney. For more information or to find a local broker, visit pureinsurance.com. You can follow PURE on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.   About PGA TOUR Champions PGA TOUR Champions is a membership organization of professional golfers age 50 and older, including 35 members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Tour’s mission is to provide financial opportunities for its players, entertain and inspire its fans, deliver substantial value to its partners, create outlets for volunteers to give back and generate significant charitable and economic impact in tournament communities. In 2019, the PGA TOUR Champions schedule includes 27 tournaments across the United States, Scotland and Canada, with purses totaling more than $56 million. The Charles Schwab Cup, which includes the Regular Season and the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, is used to determine the season-long champion. All events are televised in the United States, with most receiving complete coverage on Golf Channel, the exclusive cable-television partner of PGA TOUR Champions. Internationally, telecasts air in excess of 190 countries and territories, reaching more than 350 million potential households. Follow PGA TOUR Champions online at PGATOUR.com, at facebook.com/PGATOURChampions, on Twitter @ChampionsTour and on Instagram @championstour.   ###

Interview with Logan Lurie – National Opportunities

We were fortunate to catch up with ACE-level participant and Howard High student Logan Lurie about her experience this summer at the Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. Life Skills and Leadership Academy (a national opportunity through The First Tee) at Boise State in Idaho. Read on for the low-down from Logan on this memorable experience! Q: What made you want to apply to the Leadership Academy opportunity? A: I applied for the Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. Life Skills and Leadership Academy because it was one of The First Tee national opportunities that I had not yet been accepted to.  At age fourteen, I began to apply for national opportunities because I saw the incredible experiences my older sister, Harper, had at the ones she was selected for.  After attending my first national opportunity, The First Tee/USGA Learning Science through Golf Academy in New Jersey, I could not wait to apply for another!  From the amazing participants and coaches I have met, to the new friends I now have from across the country, to the world-class golf courses I have played, to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences I have had, each of the national opportunities have been amazing! Q: What did the application process entail? Was it fairly simple to apply? A: The application process for all of the national opportunities is simple and straightforward, if the participant does not wait until the last minute to begin them.  Each application includes General Participant Information (such as name, address, school, grade, parent information); one to a few short-answer questions; a letter of recommendation from a coach, teacher, or advisor; Chapter Participation Survey (that you request from our Chapter), and a Community Service & activities chart.  Start keeping track of these items now!  This information will also be useful when you have to write a resume, apply for a job and college applications!  Opportunities that focus on golf play will also require a golf resume and your handicap.  Once you apply for one national opportunity, it becomes much easier to apply for any others, because all you will need to do is update any information, write a new essay and ask for another letter of recommendation.  The General Participant Information and Community Service & Activities Charts are saved in the application system. In the past, there have been 5-8 national opportunities sponsored by The First Tee each year.  Many are co-sponsored by partner organizations such as John Deere, Coca-Cola, the USGA, Auntie Anne’s, Perfect Sense, Pure Insurance and Wells Fargo.  General information can be found at: https://firsttee.org/national-events/  Our coaches, fellow participants, alumni, and our Executive Director, Don Van Deusen can tell you even more! Q: It seems like the Leadership Academy is a great opportunity to gain some independence. I’m sure that could be a little nerve-racking though, especially if you don’t know anyone else going. Were you nervous at all? What helped you enjoy the experience and overcome any jitters? A: Before I left for the first national opportunity I attended, I was nervous because I didn’t know anybody or know any of The First Tee home office staff who attend the events.  Shortly after arriving, I had already made new friends and was getting to know the friendly staff and chaperones (who are First Tee alumni).  It is very easy to meet new friends at national opportunities, because we are all in the same situation:  everyone is from a different chapter, we are all very excited to make new friends and get to know each other.  I have met some of my best friends at national opportunities (some I met right away in the van from the airport, others were my roommate and others simply said hello) and it is now so much fun to be reunited with some of them at another national opportunity.  Since my first opportunity, I have not really been nervous when leaving for another because I know how easy it is to make new friends.  For any of our chapter participants considering applying to The First Tee national opportunities but are nervous, I encourage you to embrace the new opportunity, because I know you will have the best time! Q: Can you describe some of the highlights of your trip?  A: The highlight of every opportunity is always meeting new friends, but the highlight of the Joe Louis Barrow Jr., Life Skills and Leadership Academy would have to be the golf courses we played and the coaches we got to work with.  Over the course of the week, we played two beautiful golf courses many times, in various types of play formats.  I loved getting to know my coaches from all over The First Tee Network and learning from them.  It was a really great opportunity to learn from my coaches not only golf skills but Leadership and Life Skills as well. Q: The description for the Leadership Academy talks about giving teens the opportunity to develop and hone their leadership skills, but that’s a pretty broad description. Can you fill us in on more specifics about the types of activities and experiences you got to participate in there? A: Many of the leadership skills we worked on at the Academy came from team building activities and reinforcing that within a team there are various types of leaders.  One night we played team-building games such as figuring out how to orient a lot of people to fit onto small spaces, playing team memory games, and team matching games.  All of the games were fun, but required a high level of teamwork.  Another team building game we played was a French Fry Sauce competition, we were in Idaho! It was fun, and tasty, but also helped us build our leadership skills while working in a team with varying opinions. Finally, we went to a RISE Leadership Seminar about appreciating diversity and embracing differences in a team or group.  It was very enlightening and made me think about different leadership situations and scenarios that I had not have thought about before. Q: What was dorm life like? A: At many national opportunities, we are housed in college dorms and all of the dorms are slightly different.  While some are nicer than others, they are all perfect at getting The First Tee participants ready for college life.  The dorms at Boise State where I stayed during the Life Skills and Leadership Academy were very nice.  They were clean and well-kept, and spacious enough for my roommate and me.  They provided sheets and towels.  This time I had to learn how to deal with a common, hall bathroom.  It is a really good experience to see what dorm life is like before moving into one full-time for college. Q: What else would you want to tell your peers who haven’t considered applying to national opportunities in the past? A: I would tell every The First Tee participant who hasn’t participated in a national opportunity to start applying.  The national opportunities are such great chances to learn more about you as a golfer, leader and individual, while getting to meet some of the most amazing people.  They are such a unique part of The First Tee, and you never know if you will get in, until you apply.  Once you go to one opportunity, I know you will be hooked too!

Parting Words from Jim Cavanaugh

Jim Cavanaugh
Dear Parents of The First Tee of Howard County: Ten years goes by quickly! It seems like only yesterday that I arrived at The First Tee of Howard County searching for something worthwhile to do after more than 40 years in the service of the nation, either military or civilian. I knew I loved to play golf, and I wanted to “give back” to the game I had grown to love, having taken it up while in my Air Force overseas days in Okinawa, Japan in the late 1960s. So I began my journey in April of 2010, as an Assistant Coach at our First Tee chapter. I coached several classes each session, working with many of the coaches you know, and many who have departed the scene, having moved away, passed away, or simply gone away. During my almost 10 years, I have had the privilege of watching many of your children grow from youngsters to young adults, and several to college golfers. It has been my extreme pleasure to work with these young people, teach them the Nine Core Values and the Nine Healthy Habits of The First Tee, and to provide golf coaching and even from time to time play golf on the course with them. The more I taught, the more I fell in love with The First Tee and its teaching materials. When given the opportunity, four separate times, I went to National First Tee Coach Training, three or four days at a time, working with other First Tee Coaches of varying ages, varying abilities, and diverse backgrounds. Each level of training pulled me ever more steadily to the next level, until finally, I reached the level of The First Tee Coach, and after that, attended Advanced Coach Training as well. Each of these sessions introduced me further to the program, its origins, the curriculum, and the terrific Home Office Coach Training staff at some wonderful golf facilities from Raleigh, North Carolina to Houston, Texas, to Las Vegas, Nevada, and finally to Concord, California. The enthusiasm exhibited by my fellow students at these sessions, and the insights shared by the Home Office staff always provided further encouragement to keep going. As time went by, I began to fill in the gaps that our limited staff could not possibly manage to get to with the constant workload of preparing and presenting classes three sessions per year, almost 9 months out of the year. I designed scorecards to track student progress, organization schemes for our kids clubs, wrote and shared lesson plans, and generally helped out where I could in addition to teaching sometimes 5 or 6 different classes per session at almost every level of The First Tee curriculum. In mid-2016, for a time, I filled in as, then permanently at the end of that year, agreed to take on the job of Program Director for the Chapter. It was a job that I fell in love with, because it had so much variety and opportunity to learn and teach new things. Over the past three years, there have been many changes in The First Tee nationally, not the least of which has been a substantial investment in what we call Salesforce, the system that backs up your registrations for your children, keeps their grades and monitors their progression, tracks their accomplishments from making Honor Roll to moving from level to level in the program, and provides the reporting infrastructure that the First Tee Headquarters requires to track how the 145 chapters are doing. The requirements of this system and the workload caused by all of the other things that we do here at The First Tee of Howard County, from raising our own budget through three fundraisers a year and writing several grants per year, to managing club sales once a year, to tracking donations and nominating participants for National Opportunities, has finally arrived at the point where it has become time to move on. As I move to a more permanent version of retirement, I want to thank you for entrusting your children, the leaders of tomorrow, to us. Their smiles, laughter, and “Aha” moments when they hit a good shot or master a particular life skill are the fuel that keeps us all going. As I leave this position, I want to challenge all of you however with some advice. My greatest disappointment in the past 10 years has been the extremely low rate at which our participants have planned to take advantage of the longer term benefits of the program, i.e. the National Opportunities. These dozen or so opportunities which are offered each year require competitive selection among all First Tee chapters. Aspirants complete what amounts to a college entrance application-like online file, which is judged by panels of coaches, ranked, and the successful ones chosen. They range from a week away with almost a hundred other First Tee kids, coaches and chaperones where they learn about business, education, leadership, and lots of golf for most opportunities, to scholarships of various sizes. They are FREE to the aspirant, and require two things: applicants must be 14 years of age so they can travel alone to the venue, and they must have been in the system three years, and certified at minimum at the Birdie level. While we have had great success with our applicants earning spots in these classes each year, the numbers of interested applicants have been dreadfully low, especially for boys (approaching zero). Unfortunately, too many of our participants decide not to stick with the program for those three years, or come to us when it is virtually too late for them to amass the academic, citizenship and golf acumen required to compete. While the learning curve may appear at times to be slow, that is by design. It simply takes TIME to change behavior, and to coach a proper golf swing. Please resist the tendency to rush the process with requests to hurry your children ahead. While we use age gates to move kids from level to level, those numbers are neither magical nor universal. We use those numbers (given us by people far smarter than we in the areas of child development and youth athleticism) as rough measures. Every child will not be ready by the threshold age to master the intricacies of the next level of the program. While we are used to working with kids who are smarter than the average bear in Howard County, one pass through (8 weeks) the curriculum is never enough for kids who come in at the entry age for that level to master (and begin to internalize) the Core Values or Life Skills taught at that level. In short, The First Tee is not a race! It is a journey that requires time to sink in. Likewise with golf skills, this sport cannot be mastered in 90 minutes or 2 hours a week for 8 weeks three times a year. It requires hours and hours of practice to shape a solid golf swing. The rush to have kids move forward before they can really display the skills required at each level comes back later when inability to execute more difficult shots crushes the enthusiasm of the student and they find another sport. This is a sport that requires perseverance, and hours and hours of practice. And when they do practice, they should concentrate most heavily on short game—chipping and putting. This is where scores can be most easily reduced. Since your kids are mostly too young to move themselves from place to place, I urge you to make the time to take them to practice at some golf facility at least weekly. It will pay huge dividends, I promise you. Just ask some of the parents who have been around a while about Bryana Nguyen (UNC Chapel Hill), Jackie Cherry (US Naval Academy), Isabel Trojillo (Marymount), Harper Lurie (Christopher Newport University), who each spent nine or so years in this program, mostly three sessions a year, and are now playing or recently finished playing college golf. Finally, I would like to invite you to participate yourselves in the success of the chapter. This is a community endeavor. We are self supporting, and we work hard to keep our rates low. Our fundraisers are our lifeblood, yet few parents or families participate in The Taste for The First Tee in the Spring, our Annual Golf Tournament in the Summer and our Pebble Beach Raffle in the fall. If you are not in a position to support those events monetarily, please give some thought to joining the committees that prepare for and present them. “Many hands make light work,” as the saying goes, and those who have not yet had the experience would be amazed at the varied portfolios for participation available to support each of these events. You will meet great people with whom you have a lot in common, and have a good time doing it. As I depart, I want you all to know that the Chapter is in good hands, with an Executive Director and Board that care deeply, coaches who are dedicated to the Life Skills and Golf education of your children, and the BEST kids in The First Tee Network. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your children’s lives. It has been a true labor of love. Jim Cavanaugh Former Program Director The First Tee of Howard County  

Wells Fargo Awards Grant to The First Tee of Howard County

We are pleased to share that Wells Fargo has awarded a $5,000 grant to our chapter in support of the National School Program, a partnership with the Howard County Public School System that offers The First Tee programming during regularly-scheduled physical education classes.
Currently, there are 33 Howard County elementary schools that participate in the National School Program (NSP), a number we are aiming to expand this school year with the help of grant funding. The program creates an environment where young people experience the lifelong sport of golf while learning basic golf motor skills and the inherent values of the game. Physical educators receive professional development training and are provided age-appropriate curriculum and equipment for effective implementation into their programs. Last year, we engaged more than 19,000 students with the game of golf through NSP.
Nationally, The First Tee has partnered with more than 6,000 schools in 800 school districts to offer the National School Program during regularly-scheduled physical education classes.
We are grateful to the support of Wells Fargo in helping to build stronger communities.

2018 Parent Survey Results

To those parents who provided their impressions of your own and your child(rens’) experiences with The First Tee of Howard County in 2018, a hearty Thank You! This was our inaugural survey of opinions, and our plan now would be to conduct a similar survey each off-season to help us set our goals for the following year. Your comments were overwhelmingly very complimentary toward the program and positive as to its effects on your children. Thank you very much!  Although there were some areas of concern which we will do our best to address in future sessions, we were extremely pleased with what we heard. Question #1 received responses that told us that 48 percent of you (the top category) had heard about this program from a friend or relative. This is tremendous feedback, and we hope those who are enjoying the experience will continue to help us “get the word out!”
  • If ever any of you are inclined to help us do that, we are invited to various after-school functions and outdoor activities to advertise the program, and we certainly could use your help in manning a table, talking about your experience, and demonstrating the basics of our program with equipment and collateral and training that we can supply.
Almost half of you (41%) responded that 2018 was your child’s first year of participation in The First Tee, and we are very pleased to be reaching new participants! Also a positive: another 43% responded that their children have been participants for three years or longer. The highest participation rates appeared to be Fall, Spring and Summer, in that order. (Question #2) While 49% of you hail from Columbia and Ellicott City, 16% come from other counties to participate in our programs here, for which we are grateful. We continue to work to establish a stronger footprint in the western and southern parts of the county, where the remaining 35% reside. On the satisfaction scale, combining responses of Strongly Agree and Agree, 89% reported that their children enjoyed the program; and 97% that classes were priced appropriately. Ninety-one percent indicated that the program was beneficial for their children, and 90% that they were satisfied with the golf skills the children learned. 86% Agreed or Strongly Agreed that they were satisfied with the overall instruction, and the same percentage were satisfied with the timing and variety of classes offered. Your opinions on the coaching staff were also encouraging, with:
  • 97% stating that their child(rens’) coaches were friendly and approachable
  • 95% felt that the coaches were prepared and organized
  • 97% felt that the coaches were knowledgeable and conveyed the knowledge well, and
  • 89% felt that the coaches made the program fun
We have communicated with our coaches and will re-emphasize during our yearly training before classes begin this spring, the few negative comments we received about particular situations that you told us have made a few participants reticent about returning. We thank you for your honesty and hope you will give us the opportunity to improve those few situations. When we asked about The First Tee’s A/B Honor Roll Program, in which all chapters are asked to participate so that the National Headquarters can evaluate the individual impact of the program on our participants’ academic success, 62 percent of you said that you found this program a useful form of recognition. Only 10% said they did not find it useful while 28% said they were not aware of the program. That is an area for us to work on.
  • We are asked to report this information (numbers only) to First Tee Headquarters annually at the end of November, covering the previous year’s first and second semester grades. First Tee uses it to measure the effect of First Tee progression on grades. Alumni have reported a very high coincidence of longevity and progress in The First Tee and better grades.
  • We collect this information from you in two ways. One, each time you register a child you are asked to fill out a number of demographic questions, one of which (for ages 7 and up) is, “Did your child make the AB Honor Roll this past semester?” In addition, as second and fourth marking periods approach, we advertise via email, FB Blast and Newsletter, and open a place on our home page where parents can certify that their participants received all A’s and B’s.
  • We collate this information, enter it into your children’s’ electronic records, and use it to generate our list of AB Honor Roll participants.
  • When we asked about whether recognition certificates, produced once a year for the previous second and fourth quarter grades were preferred over another form of recognition, such as bag tags or some other token, 59% said they would prefer some token or bag tag to the certificates we print. We will be looking at that possibility in the coming year. (Question 9)
We asked whether the program met your expectations. 93% said yes, while 7% said no. When asked if you would recommend this program to other families, 93% said yes. While there were no “No” answers perse, 7% (4 respondents) offered comments.
  • A very small number of respondents opined about a lower than expected level of golf skills being imparted. Each year when we send out the class welcome messages, we attach a copy of the criteria for completing the current registered level (which are set by The First Tee in St. Augustine, FL). In addition, we are evaluated on our delivery of a set few skills at each level, with the greatest emphasis in early levels (PLAYer and Par–as it should be with all golfers) on the area and the shots used closest to the hole (e.g., putting, chipping and pitching).
    • These are the skills that produce lower scores, and unfortunately the ones most ignored by weekend golfers—a primary reason why the average 18-hole score for the 20+ million US adults who play Golf has not gone below 100 in 60 years, despite advances in equipment and golf course maintenance, according to the National Golf Foundation.
    • A solid grounding in these three strokes translates to longer range strokes later on, but the fundamentals are all encompassed in those shots around the green. At the PLAYer level, we are asked to teach four swings (Putt, Chip, Pitch and Full Swing); and Three Golf Fundamentals (Target Awareness, Distance Response, and Get Ready to Swing, each with two or three “Factors of Influence”). So, for example, Target Awareness includes Factors of Influence of Target Selection, and Distance to the Target; Distance-response includes Size or Length of Motion and Club Selection; while Get ready to Swing includes Hold, Setup and Aim and Alignment. It takes time to ingrain these, and it should, after all, for, with the possible exception of competitive shooting or archery, the Golf Hole (4 ¼” in diameter) is the smallest target in sport, and must be reached using an instrument (golf club) without the ball being touched by the hands. (Question 10)
Your general narrative comments were enlightening and useful.  One theme that came through was course time for the kids. Obviously, conducting our classes on revenue-producing, largely public golf courses limits our ability to get the kids on course during class times, which whether weekday or weekend, coincide with the high public or member usage periods for these courses. While some The First Tee Chapters have dedicated facilities, this is a rare situation. We continue to exploit time on  course when we can, and we are working to create playtimes outside First Tee class hours for First Tee participants at Fairway Hills and elsewhere to the extent that we can when schools are not in session. Watch for new opportunities this spring and summer. Several responses remarked about the burden of homework in The First Tee Yardage Book. These books contain most of what is required for participants to pass their written First Tee written exams on Life Skills, Healthy Habits and Golf Knowledge, supplemented by the knowledge transferred by our coaches during classes and exercises.
  • There are few such additional materials in most Junior Golf programs, but then, they are not in the Youth Development business–We are. Therefore, the extra work required enhances participants’ maturity, sociability and ability to perform complex tasks – a mission unique to The First Tee.
    • These materials are designed in coordination with various recognized experts in the fields of positive youth development, sport psychology, physical education, golf fitness and youth golf coaching.
    • The curriculum (Yardage Books plus the other materials we use) has evolved based on 20 years of feedback from The First Tee chapter network and third-party research specifically designed to assess longitudinal effects of The First Tee’s Life Skills Experience certification levels on positive youth development through golf.
    • Finally, with the recent wholesale changes in the Rules of Golf, we are expecting the Yardage books to be amended and rewritten to accommodate the new definitions and simpler rules, although there is no timeline for this reprinting as yet announced. As a result we will be training our coaches in the new terms and providing additional materials until they are incorporated in the Yardage Books.
On themes such as homework, boredom with the “same old drills,” “too much time in the classroom,” etc., we have heard you, but, participant completion of the Yardage Books at each level is a requirement for advancement in every First Tee chapter in the network. These books contain exercises for the kids to do on their own, or with parental assistance, and provide them different ways to think about the context surrounding their learning environment.
  • We are happy to help you navigate these materials at any time.
  • We are working to standardize our lesson plans across levels of The First Tee and hope to have PLAYer, Par and Birdie completed before classes begin in April.
  • While bad weather and meeting some of the academic requirements in The First Tee will force us to spend time inside, the new Lesson Plans will emphasize to coaches the need to do more of what we do outside in our golf and related exercises.
  • Additionally, working at the younger levels first, and expanding to the older participants, we are creating standardized lesson plans and exercises for our coaches so that all participants at the same level are exposed to essentially the same material, and have opportunities to enjoy competition (another comment that was voiced) within the bounds of class, as the opportunity presents.
  • Also, these lesson plans will (except for the vagaries of bad weather) emphasize time OUTSIDE, with Life Skills being taught with and through the golf drills the kids experience. This should help their mastery and exposure to the material.
  • Participants will still be responsible for assimilating the material and passing the skills tests required at each level. As always, our lessons will close with a Bridge to Life, which will help participants translate the skills and core concepts they learn here to life outside of golf, which is our primary mission.
Finally, there were a few comments that indicated discomfort in the broad age span for PLAYer/Par classes, especially when kids older than 11 are required to begin The First Tee at the PLAYer level. While we cannot change the starting level for newcomers, because it is mandated by The First Tee and all that comes later has its basis in the Nine Core Values that are taught at PLAYer level, we will be making a change this year.
  • Beginning in April (as we were prior to 2016), we will return to the format of separate PLAYer and Par classes. Thus, participants 7 and older will begin at PLAYer, and all PLAYer students once certified at that level will move to a 9 and older Par class next, rather than having both levels together.
  • For first entry students age 12 and older, we will continue to host our Rising Teens class, which will still work at moving those slightly more mature participants through the first two levels (PLAYer and Par) in a single 8-week session. Those who are not certified at the Par level upon completion of that session will then require another Par class as a follow-up to become certified at Par to move to Birdie level (11 and up).
So, once again, we thank you for completing the survey!  We hope that the changes we are making will have a positive impact on the next survey. As we promised, one respondent was chosen at random to receive the First Tee Goody Bag we offered, and we will be delivering that shortly. Please watch for our next survey at the end of this First Tee year, sometime hopefully in November-December 2019. And, once again, thank you for bringing your child(ren) to The First Tee of Howard County!  

Why Should Girls Play Golf?

Girls Golf: The First TeeGirls participating in sports, like golf, and are physically active:*
  • Have greater levels of self-esteem and self-image
  • Associated with a lower prevalence of sexual risk-taking behaviors
  • Are more satisfied with their weight (regardless of how much they weigh)
  • Significantly less likely to have ever used illicit drugs
Are you looking for a program that will empower your daughter to succeed? Our golf and life skills programs may be just what she’s looking for. Girls are encouraged to join any of the programs offered at The First Tee of Howard County, and we also provide programs geared exclusively for girls. Often led by female coaches and role models, the programs are designed to empower and inspire girls on the golf course, in the classroom and as they pursue college and careers. The programs provide them with the confidence and skills to become tomorrow’s leaders.


  • Learn the many life-long benefits from golf
  • Build lasting relationships with other girls
  • Experience competition in a fun, supportive environment


  • LPGA-USGA Girls Golf
  • Personal interaction with LPGA professionals, EWGA members and female PGA of America members
  • One-on-one mentoring programs that pairs girls with positive role models in their community
  • Assistance with college applications and scholarships
At The First Tee, we’re teaching more than the game of golf – through the program, girls are empowered and inspired to succeed in the game of life.