NIPOMO, Calif .– A program designed to teach young people how to play golf – and how to be successful in life – is growing in popularity. This is called the first tee.

At Blacklake Golf Course in Nipomo, a year-end celebration for the First Tee Central Coast program was underway.

“We go there year-round, four seasons a year, and that’s to thank all the parents and kids for being with us all year,” said Billy Gibbs, First Tee Program Director. “So just over the holidays, we have a little holiday-related end of year party.”

From the age of five to adolescence, First Tee participants are introduced to golf in a safe and fun environment. But the lessons go far beyond.

“The first tee is all about character,” Gibbs said. “We build our character through the game of golf, so we play and develop skills through chipping, putting and pitching, but more importantly, how to be a good person.”

The core values ​​of First Tee include:

  • Honesty and integrity.
  • Sportiness and respect.
  • Trust and responsibility.
  • Courtesy, judgment and perseverance.

Claire Alford is a student at the University of Santa Clara and a former First Tee participant.

“To be honest, it really changed my life,” she said. “I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t started teeing all these years ago, amazing core values ​​that they teach, to persevere throughout life and to be responsible, to be respectful, all of those things I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t started First Tee. “

“You see them graduate with honors and go on and do things, become leaders, they become leaders in their community, it strengthens your heart and that’s really why I do it and I see it all the time.” , said Gibbs.

As well as being a popular program for kids, the First Tee Central Coast is a hit with parents.

Jesse Weipert is the parent of one of the participants.

“I love that they are learning the sport, that they learn a lot of skills and that they also teach the core values ​​that will help them throughout life,” Weipert said.

For almost 20 years, the First Tee Central Coast program spans the tri-county area.

“We also have in-school and after-school programs and in a regular year we reach about 25,000 kids,” said Jessani Johnson, executive director of the program.

And the First Tee Central Coast continues to grow, despite the impacts of COVID-19.

“There is obviously no silver lining to a pandemic, but kids are allowed to do outdoor activities and so when kids couldn’t do other sports, we asked parents to say, ‘can they join us, “which they can of course,” Gibbs mentioned. “The cool thing is they’re coming back now. Even though the other sports are open they still want to keep going, which shows that we’re doing something right and continuing to make a difference. fill and we have a destroy. “

Gibbs said the winter schedule that begins in January is already nearly full.

To learn more about the First Tee program, click here.