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The Deer Park Community

First Tee builds strong character foundations through golf

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Community

One Houston-area organization is helping young people build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through golf. The First Tee of Greater Houston recently visited the Deer Park Rotary Club to talk about its program and share its outreach.

Most days, the Battleground at Deer Park Golf Course is filled with golfers enjoying a leisurely or competitive round of 18 holes. Recently, the golf course joined The First Tee program, a network of courses that promote character building and values through golf. Doug Earle and Gail Robinson spoke to the Deer Park Rotary Club about The First Tee’s outreach and how it helps young people build strong foundations on and off the course.

Founded in 1997, The First Tee is an international organization that encompasses nine Houston-area golf courses.

“It grows the game, grows golfers and grows stronger youth,” said Earle, executive director of The First Tee of Greater Houston. “We use golf to help build confidence in young people and help them persevere through tough times using golf as a foundation.”

The First Tee uses golf lessons to build skills and mental toughness on the course and then apply those skills into life off the course. The program is open to boys and girls ages 7-18. It also opens golf’s doors to young people who feel like they may not have access to the game.

“We teach golf’s fundamentals and rules,” Earle said. “Golf is an honorable game in that the players call penalties on themselves, so we also teach integrity.”

Integrity is just one of the nine core values promoted through The First Tee, said Earle. It also promotes honesty, sportsmanship, respect, responsibility, confidence, courtesy, perseverance and judgment.

“Through golf, we incorporate those core values into our curriculum,” he said. The program also reaches out to local elementary schools, including those in Deer Park ISD.

Earle said not every participant is going to grow up to become a golfer.

“But at least we are giving kids a chance to play the game and if they have an interest, they can keep going. The main idea is to teach the kids the core values, healthy habits and the tools to make healthy choices off the course,” said Earle. “If they happen to like the game and get better, that’s a bonus.”

Robinson, who facilitates the program at the Battleground Golf Course, began as a volunteer when her daughter became interested in the program.

Her daughter developed through The First Tee program and eventually earned a golf scholarship to attend college. She now plays for the national team of the Bahamas.

Robinson said she continued to volunteer with The First Tee because she saw her daughter grow through the program’s life lessons and as a golfer.

“It was encouraging to see her develop as golfer and as a person,” she said. “It’s why I stayed and volunteered after she left. It’s such a great program.”

The First Tee program divides its participants in age levels, exposing the young people to the game and then to its character building exercises.

“They can explore the game of golf and then began setting goals on the course or what they want to do in life,” said Robinson.

Volunteers do not have to be golfers to assist, they only need to pass background checks and training.

“It’s all about teaching kids to respect themselves, others and their surroundings. That’s what we’re looking for in our volunteers as well,” she said. “We pride ourselves in that.”

The cost for an entire year to participate in The First Tee program is $30, but that fee is waived if the child is on a free or reduced lunch in their school.

“We don’t want any child turned away because of finances,” Earle said.

For more information on The First Tee of Greater Houston, visit