The City of Cuyahoga Falls Parks and Recreation department recently started The First Tee program at Brookledge Golf Club earlier in the summer.
The program is now in its seventh week of a nine-week program, which is known as The First Tee of Greater Akron, an international youth development organization that introduces the game of golf and its inherent values to young people.
It was originally designed for inner-city youth players and disadvantaged youth players.
"All three of Falls’ elementary schools (Preston, Elizabeth Price and Richardson) have implemented the program," Brookledge teaching professional Mike Meneer said. "We try to identify with kids at an early age who not only have a propensity for golf and are not able to afford it, but also to go through scholarships and go through our program and get golf equipment, as well."
The program features two sessions every Monday and Wednesday morning. The program targets 12 students in each session. It is based on age and grade levels, along with the players’ abilities.
Golfers start at the player level (third- and fourth-grade) and work their way up to more advanced levels such as par, birdie, eagle, ace and master.
"The idea of The First Tee program is learning golf fundamentals and implementing the nine core values that come from The First Tee national program," Meneer said.
Those core values are perseverance, responsibility, confidence, respect, sportsmanship, integrity, honesty, judgement and courtesy.
"[Superintendent of Parks for Cuyahoga Falls] Sara Kline was very helpful in her motivation to get this program started," Meneer said. "She helped subsidize a lot of our implementation. We are actively recruiting local companies and people to get donations for our program."
In order for player-level golfers to move up, they will have to play nine holes on a golf course. There is no scoring on the player level. The advanced levels include scoring.
The First Tee has reached more than 9 million people since its inception in 1997.
The program’s origination took place in Akron at Mud Run Golf Course and Driving Range and J.E. Good Park Golf Course.
"The City of Akron originally built Mud Run as a nine-hole golf course precisely to host The First Tee program," Meneer said. "It started within the schools. Our intention is to work directly with our schools and give the kids an opportunity to be part of the program."
Walsh Jesuit graduate Chase Johnson, who had a very successful golfing career at Kent State University, recently attended a session.
"Chase talked to the kids about his First Tee experience," Meneer said. "He also talked about his golfing experience. He ran through his workout program with the kids."
Meneer said he also plans to contact Stow-Munroe Falls and former Kent State star Ian Holt and current PGA golfer Ryan Armour, a Walsh graduate.
"We want to have kids who move along in the program to different levels," Meneer said. "Our goal is to enhance the high school golf programs and golf in general."
The Cuyahoga Falls, Walsh and Woodridge high school teams play their home matches at Brookledge.