Mackenzie Mack and the team at The First Tee Tampa are teaching SouthShore children life skills through the game of golf.

The group, one of the top five of 175 The First Tee’s 175 world-wide chapters, provides 65,000 children a year with hands-on interactive golf experiences in schools through classes at local courses. But students come away with a lot more than just a knowledge of the sport.

“Our goal is to use the game of golf to help students develop life-enhancing values like confidence, perseverance and judgement,” said Mack, The First Tee Tampa’s Program Director and a ‘First Tee Kid’ herself, who joined the program as an 11-year-old living in Las Vegas.

The program began in 1991 as Urban Junior Golf at Rogers Park Golf Course in Tampa offering affordable and accessible golf opportunities to children from moderate socio-economic backgrounds. It became an official program of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA in 1998 and now also partners with other community groups including the Tampa Sports Authority and the City of Tampa.

In addition to knowledge about the game of golf, each class incorporates a core value or skill such as how to meet new people, how to set goals or how to stay healthy. Programs are also available specifically for girls and high school students getting ready for college where they will learn resume writing and interview skills.

According to Mack, classes at local courses, including Summerfield Crossings Golf Club in Riverview and Apollo Beach Golf Club, are priced based off family income.

“Beginner classes range from $14 to $84 for a seven week session based on how much the student can pay,” said Mack. “We will not turn a child away for financial reasons.”

Students can also use equipment provided by the program if they do not have their own.
“We really want to remove any obstacles for the kids to learn,” said Mack. “All they need to bring with them are closed toed shoes and a smile.”

Programs are also offered in more than 130 Hillsborough County public schools and the group offers after-school programs and summer camps.

For more information on the program and to find out class times and locations, visit www.thefirstteetampabay.org or call 238-7320.