Teeing up youth leadersRobert O’Brien believes there’s more to golf than knocking the ball around the course for a few hours.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
Robert O’Brien believes there’s more to golf than knocking the ball around the course for a few hours.
So when his boss tasked him with finding a community-based cause for their Woodbury business to support, he reached out to a golf-based program that he and others believe can instill strong values in young people.
“When I found The First Tee I felt as if I found exactly what this community needs,” O’Brien said.
The First Tee program, which also gained support from the Woodbury Rotary Club, is now set to launch this summer at Eagle Valley Golf Course in Woodbury. The Woodbury First Tee program – which, for now, will fly under the banner of the organization’s St. Paul chapter – marks the first of its kind in the east-metro suburbs.
First Tee is a 10,000-member strong nationally based organization that teaches children the game of golf – and a whole lot more, O’Brien said.
“It’s about tomorrow’s leaders,” he said.
As kids go through the program, they’re exposed to a curriculum that instills what First Tee calls its nine core values and nine healthy habits. That means embracing concepts like honesty, sportsmanship and confidence, along with developing habits for strong physical, emotional and social health.
Paul Parnell, a financial advisor at Parnell & Associates – where O’Brien works – said he was drawn to the program because of his passion for golf and its ability to “cultivate leadership skills in young people.”
“First Tee gives children from all backgrounds the chance to have fun and learn critical life skills in a safe place,” Parnell said.
O’Brien said the idea is to reach children at a young age, so by the time they’re teenagers, they can carry themselves with a level of respect and poise that transcends what happens on the golf course.
“Every time they step on a golf course, they’re going to think about those nine core values,” he said.
Funds raised for the program, O’Brien explained, will go toward ensuring children from all walks of life can participate.
“I believe this program will unite children and create lifelong friendships for them,” he said. “This program does not exclude anyone, which speaks true community.
“It doesn’t matter if a child comes from a wealthy family, or a poor family. It doesn’t matter if a child is a prodigy or has a learning disability. No matter what the child’s situation is, one thing stands true in my eyes: Leaders aren’t born, they’re made.”
The Rotary Club was eager to get behind the program since its goals center so heavily on youth.
“This is a character-building process – The First Tee,” said Cork Wicker, membership committee chairman for the Woodbury Rotary Club.
But, O’Brien pointed out, what rolls out this summer could be just the first phase of the program. Over time, he hopes to help raise enough funds to bring the program to the local YMCA and to Woodbury’s schools without putting a strain on District 833 coffers.
Program organizers have raised $10,000 through donations from Rotary and Parnell & Associates, but are looking to raise a total of $20,000.
Rob O’Brien is seeking volunteers and advisory board members for First Tee. He is holding informational sessions running from 5-6 p.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m. March 7, from 9-10 a.m. and noon to 1 p.m. March 9 and from 5-6 p.m. and 6:30-7:30 p.m. March 12. He can be reached by email at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.