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Hole in One

ON THE BALL: Kids from the local First Tee program learn core values to help them with character building, while also challenging their athleticism. Photo courtesy of Charles Kuebler

The first tee, a national pro-gram for boys and girls, is making a difference in the Cape Fear area by coaching and mentoring our next generation of leaders. It teaches golf and values that will last a lifetime.

“I will be a First Tee-er for life,” teenager Kristen Red-Horse said. “This program has opened my mind to everything—made me want to try everything at least once and not hold back. First Tee is my extended family.”

Based on nine core values and nine healthy habits, The First Tee was started in 1997 by the World Golf Foundation and partnered with America’s Promise Alliance, said APA spokesman and former Secretary of State, Colin Powell. “More than ever, we need to fill our children with confidence and a sense of ethics, hard work and honesty,” he said.

In Wilmington, First Tee is being taught at DC Virgo as part of the school’s enrichment program. Coaches are on core value #4: Respect. As volunteers teach kids to hold the golf club and swing the ball off the tee, they also teach values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

“For the first time, my son has made the honor roll and gets excellent reviews from his teacher about his focus and determination to do his best,” a First Tee participant’s parent said.

In southeastern North Carolina, The First Tee of Brunswick County and The First Tee of the Cape Fear Region (New Hanover, Pender and Duplin counties included) are both branded program affiliates of the nonprofit Carol S. Petrea Youth Golf Foundation, which built the beautiful Carolina Life Skills and Leadership Academy on 28 private acres in Shallotte. Thanks to Rusty and Carol Petrea, First Tee is in every elementary school in Brunswick County with 300 volunteers to back it.

In Wilmington, coach and volunteer Chuck Kuebler is hoping for the same success in New Hanover County schools. Coaches must pass a strict background check, and are trained to empower youth to make decisions, to build rapport and establish positive relationships, and to create a fun learning environment through golf and life-skills development. First Tee participants learn to introduce themselves, manage emotions, resolve conflicts, set step-by-step goals, plan for the future and appreciate diversity.

“I have two teenage boys myself,” Kuebler, a self-employed businessman, said, “and enjoy helping kids.”

Kuebler wants to see The First Tee of the Cape Fear Region become a part of the physical education program in every elementary school countywide. Some 30 volunteers are prepared to help children learn to be accountable in the classroom, as well as on the golf course.

“There are young people just beginning professional tours, who started out with The First Tee.” Kuebler said.

Fund-raising tournaments will be held in the spring and summer of 2013 to finance learning materials and equipment. A unique event, the 2013 Player’s Card, would make a great holiday gift, and allows golf enthusiasts to play at 18 different area golf courses for only $100 plus $25 per golf course. The Player’s Card may be purchased at www.thefirstteecapefearregion.org and will promote not only the sport of golf, but also the welfare and success of a child.

For more information, call Chuck Kuebler at 910-392-7760, or Rebecca Albin, executive director of the Petrea Foundation, at 910-754-5288.

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