PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - It's tee time for children from families with military ties in the Monterey area, thanks to The First Tee Military Affiliate Program.

In general, the program is set up to offer free golf instruction to children from National Guard and Reserve families geographically separated from a military base at The First Tee's 200 chapters across the nation.

But, military children on or near a base, both stateside and overseas, can also benefit from free golf instruction through The First Tee, because The First Tee provides the curriculum and training so the program can run without a nearby chapter.

However, some local chapters have teamed up with stateside military youth programs to offer the program to military children. This is the version the two local youth centers here are involved with.

So, locally, the Salinas chapter, The First Tee of Monterey County, offers the program to children whose parents are eligible to use the Porter Youth Center on Ord Military Community and the Tech Connection, La Mesa Village's youth center, said Tim Carroll, youth program director for Tech Connection.

School-age children at all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, are invited to hone their golf game with the help of trained coaches. The goal is to welcome at least 6,000 participants, defense officials said.

The Tech Connection year-round program began in September with 10 participants, said Carroll, adding that it is now up to more than 90 with the expectation to easily surpass 100 children by the beginning of summer.

As for the Porter Youth Center on Ord Military Community, sports director Andy Lipsig said the program there should be running by summer.

There is no limit on the number of children who may attend, because, Carroll said, as more sign up an additional instructor will be added.

The instructors are local golf pros provided by area golf courses, he explained.

The program not only sharpens children's skills on golf course greens and fairways, but it also provides life skills. Along with basic golf instruction, The First Tee coaches teach children interpersonal communication, managing emotions, goal-setting and overcoming obstacles.

"The First Tee youth development program gets kids outside in fresh air and sunshine, engages them in meaningful activity, and provides the opportunity for individual skill building with group camaraderie," said Barbara Thompson, director of the Defense Department's office of family policy, children and youth. "The First Tee core values mirror the core values of their parents, including honesty, integrity, respect, courtesy, responsibility and perseverance."

To sign up, parents can visit one of the military youth centers, a First Tee chapter in their community or download a coupon for free instruction by visiting The First Tee website, <a href="http://www.thefirsttee.org/military">www.thefirsttee.org/military</a>.

"We are excited to have this program as an option for military children in or near their communities," Thompson said.

The children in the program range in ages of 6, if mature enough, or 7 to 17, Carroll said.

But, no matter the children's ages, they all start at level 1, Carroll said, explaining that levels 1-4 take place at the center and level 5 lessons, for the La Mesa children, take place at the Monterey Pines Golf Course. He added that the children generally reach level 5 within a year.

"We recognize that military children have many interests, and for that reason, we continue to look for a wide variety of opportunities that offer a positive learning experience along with the opportunity for personal growth," Thompson said. "We know also that if it's an activity for children, these opportunities need to include an element of fun."

And the children do have fun in the program, said Carroll, explaining that his own children attend the program and keep a watchful eye on the time to make sure their mother gets them to the center on time every week.

The First Tee, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, was created in 1997 as a way of bringing golf to youth who otherwise would not be exposed to the game and its positive values, according to The First Tee website.

Additionally, the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 5, is a 54-hole golf event, the first of its kind, featuring 78 Champions Tour players and 78 junior golfers ages 13-18. In addition to the Champions Tour players and juniors, 156 amateurs complete the field, according to The First Tee Open website.

The event showcases the talent and character of young people who participate at the First Tee facilities worldwide, The First Tee website says. An official Champions Tour event, the tournament pairs one junior with a Champions Tour player and two amateurs, according to the website.

(This article was localized from an American Forces Press Service article by Elaine Wilson.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16