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Good News: First Tee of Savannah restarting

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*(WTOC)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 5:02 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - There has not been much time for playing with all the work happening at the First Tee of Savannah.

“They have been motivated, knocking things out left and right. They’ve been wonderful to work with and super responsive,” Ryan Wilson said.

The community was quick to accept the idea of restarting a local chapter of the national organization that teaches young people golf and life skills.

The folks bringing the First Tee back were even faster to take it from concept to reality.

“We got our 501C3 right toward the end of last year and we’ve been hitting the ground running ever since. We got our website up and running the last few weeks and we’re going to have kids hitting on driving ranges here in the next few weeks,” Ben Robbins said.

Hiring a new executive director was another big step. Robbins sees similarities between his experience as a worship pastor in Savannah and Atlanta for the last 10 years and the work he will be doing with to First Tee kids and families.

“The idea of helping people like I was in the church world, helping kids through the game of golf, it was something I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview for. And the more I interviewed, I realized it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be … I love what I know we’re going to do in the future, which is help a lot of kids in our community learn the game of golf but maybe create better futures for them going forward.”

And now that work is just weeks away from starting again. The first instructional sessions of Savannah’s new First Tee will take place June 14 at three golf courses across the city.

“It’s exciting. I am thrilled to actually see it come to life. I just can’t wait for these kids to experience it ... for me, it’s a lot about getting kids out, having fun, introducing the game to them and more of it is the character development behind it,” John Parker said.

New program director Parker has been independently involved with the First Tee for several years, teaching the organization’s curriculum to his third-grade class at Richmond Hill Elementary.

“Basically, I put a putting green in the middle of my classroom and taught golf in there. People started calling left and right, First Tee corporate called and said how do you feel about running programming at my school.”

“Our teachers are some of our best coaches. They know how to work with kids and keep them engaged.”

The First Tee national headquarters has been working with the new local chapter every step on the way back, including a recent visit prior to the re-launch.

“It’s a place we want to be, a community that is vibrant and diverse. We couldn’t be more excited than to be back in Savannah.”

And to be back so quickly.

“We didn’t want to miss summer. COVID’s kept everyone inside for a while and felt like it’s an opportunity to get kids out there to learn these character values but also play the game of golf. It will be a great thing for us this summer to get going.”

The First Tee will be offered initially this summer at Bacon Park, Southbridge and Crosswinds but will likely expand to most courses in the area soon.

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