The First Tee Receives New Funds to Help Local Youth Gain Life Skills

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Seattle, Wash. (July 26, 2006) -- Hundreds of kids from the Greater Seattle area are developing golf skills – and much more -- this summer, thanks in part to a generous grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As recipients of a $132,000 grant from the Gates Foundation’s Pacific Northwest Program, The First Tee of Greater Seattle is able to offer its golf and life skills program to a growing number of kids ages 6 to 18.

“Our Life Skills program teaches participants how to define and set goals, and how to transfer values such as honesty, integrity, respect, confidence and sportsmanship from the golf course to everyday life,” explained Heidi Wills, Executive Director of The First Tee of Greater Seattle. Using a variety of experiences and golf-related exercises, the lessons focus on fun, she emphasized, adding, “These Life Skills lessons will remain with young people well into the future regardless of how long they play golf.”

The affordably priced The First Tee program has two curricula, one focused on golf and the second designed to develop life skills and character development for youth of all backgrounds. Developed by experts in golf, academics and coaching, the curricula teaches fundamentals of the game of golf, along with life-enhancing skills based on nine core values.

Using golf as a platform, students also learn about responsibility, trust, patience and respecting each other. “As the kids learn patience on the golf course, their instructors ask them how patience is transferable to other aspects of their lives,” said Gordy Graybeal, Director of Golf for the Seattle area program. “Making the connection with values on the golf course to kids’ everyday lives helps improve their relationships at home, in school, and with their friends,” he noted.

Research by two universities suggests the program is making a positive difference, according to Wills. Citing results of a survey of parents whose kids spent a season in the program, more than half (52 percent) reported an improvement in their child’s grades in schools and three-fourths of the parents (75 percent) observed positive changes in their child’s communication skills and confidence. Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) observed a positive change in their child’s social abilities.

Participants pay a $35 registration fee for the program, which depends on volunteers and donations to offset costs. Scholarships are available to participants of all ages.

The foundation grant enables The First Tee of Greater Seattle to significantly further its mission to impact the lives of young people. The funds will support operations at all three learning facilities: Jefferson Park Golf Course, Jackson Park Golf Course (both in Seattle) and the Crossroads Par 3 Golf Course in Bellevue.

Background: The First Tee ( First Tee is a World Golf Foundation initiative dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values. Lessons are based on nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. The intent is to offer opportunities for improvement in the quality of life and to create a platform where children can increase their potential for success.

The First Tee of Greater Seattle (
The First Tee of Greater Seattle was formed in 2001 from a collaborative effort involving the Broadmoor Golf Club Foundation, The First Tee, the board of Municipal Golf of Seattle and the City of Seattle. Seattle became the 106th chapter of The First Tee on December 20, 2002 and began programming in 2003, with 224 kids taking part in the inaugural program at Jefferson Park Golf Course. Since then, it has added two facilities and is serving over 900 kids this summer and reaches over 6,000 kids per year during physical education classes at area schools.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ( by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates.