November 2020

First Tee – The Lowcountry: Beyond the green: building a brighter future, one duffer at a time

Author: Barry Kaufman

On paper, First Tee exists to teach young people the game of golf. But then again, on paper, the game of golf is just putting a ball into a tiny hole. Like so many things, it’s not about the goal, but how you get there.
“Yes, we are here to play golf. And kids do learn golf,” said Nick Dunham, program director for First Tee – The Lowcountry. “But more importantly, we’re here to make sure these kids know golf is not the focal point of life. We want to make sure you can be a community leader. You can be whatever you want to be with the skills we give you.”

Launched in 1997 as a partnership between the LPGA, The Masters Tournament, the PGA of America, the PGA TOUR, and the USGA, First Tee’s national bedrock lies in the nine core values it instills in young golfers. Alongside the fundamentals of the game, youth learn the value of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.

“It has to be more than just the sport itself,” Dunham said. “We’re here to develop relationship and act as mentors while playing golf. We’re here to be that resource and help a child grow.”

Our local branch of this national organization, First Tee – The Lowcountry, has been a driving force for change, whether in the classroom or in its beautiful facility, completed in 2016. “The school program is growing rapidly,” Dunham said. “We’re up to 33 schools, which covers around 13,000 kids.”

Obviously, school looks a little different this year than it has in previous years. Thankfully, one of First Tee’s nine core values is perseverance. First Tee was able to adapt many of its programs into virtual resources, delivered over the internet and adding one more club to the teachers’ bag. “It’s humorous to see a whole classroom where 10 of them have headphones and two of them are doing jumping jacks,” Dunham said. “We’ve helped physical education teachers doing virtual stuff, and we’ve provided online resources if they want to change things up and offer something new. We’re still here to support in any way we can.”

While the pandemic has kept them out of the schools, their facility remains an open-air classroom for instilling the importance of both a good approach shot and a commitment to a community. “We hired a superintendent in the spring, and I have to say it’s looking better than some golf courses,” Dunham said.

If you’re looking to instill the next generation with leadership skills while teaching them the finer points of the game, First Tee – The Lowcountry is always looking for volunteers, with coaches being the biggest need, according to Dunham. “The commitment would be one day a week for a few hours, and you don’t need to be a 10-handicapper,” he said. “I don’t necessarily need the scratch golfer. I just need coaches who enjoy teaching kids, love the game, and want to give back.”

The First Tee campus is open to everyone, 7 days a week. To learn more, visit

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