Robeson County is shooting to be home of the eighth.
The First Tee, which has a goal of money being a non-issue for children wanting to try their hand at golf, has chapters scattered across 37 different golf courses in North Carolina, including the First Tees of The Triad, The Triangle, Brunswick County, Cleveland County, Hampton Roads, Charlotte and Sandhills.
Robeson County has laid the groundwork to potentially join that list. Recently, Pinecrest Country Club in Lumberton became an affiliate of the Sandhills chapter.
But, Jamie Locklear is hoping that’s just the beginning. Locklear, who runs a youth golf academy at Pinecrest CC and earned his First Tee certification at North Carolina State last September, hopes to build the funds, numbers and support — as in donations from local business, significant youth participation and adult volunteers and the backing from county and school administrations — necessary to stake a First Tee flag in Robeson County.
“The First Tee is all about a kid that will come in and leave this program as a good citizen of this county with core values,” Locklear said. The First Tee preaches nine core values to its members: Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgement. “Our county’s behind when it comes to programs like this. If anybody deserves First Tee, it’s Robeson County.”
Locklear will be spending time in the presence of Bill Baker, the Sandhills chapter’s Executive director, to see the inner-workings of what makes such a program flourish.
“I’m going to be doing a lot of training through Mr. Baker,” Locklear said. “That’s why we’re partnering with them starting out. I’m going to learn what it takes to be successful with a First Tee in Robeson County.”
Baker is happy to have the county aboard.
“We can do the (First Tee) sessions in school, we can do it after school, we can do it at Pinecrest Country Club if they invite us — we can go where they are,” Baker said. “It can customize to fit the need of the community.”
First Tee participants, who range from 8 to 18 years old, though many chapters are available for children younger than 8, work their way through a progression of playing-levels, starting as a Par player with the potential to finish as high as an Ace. Ace players are able to qualify to play at the Pro-Am championship tour event in Pebble Beach.
The Sandhills chapter recently had two members achieve such a feat.
“It’s all really about building up the child and giving them confidence,” Baker said. “Give them some social skills that they can carry over to church to school to home — the one’s that stick with it will keep those forever.”