The COVID-19 pandemic has a caused stress at multiple levels for families.
As it has extended over six months, the dynamic of families has changed and put more pressure on homelife. Kids get cabin fever, causing a level of irritation previously not experienced by both parents and their children.
It used to be a few rainy days in a row were the extent of kids being kept in the house. Now with no in-person school and youth sports for the most part being put on the shelf, it has taken away outlets for the kids.
Except for golf. Golf was the first sport to come back at the professional level, as well as one of the outdoor activities allowed to resume before man others.
The First Tee Tri-Valley has seen business stay strong while many others have suffered.
“COVID has changed golf in that it’s brought more people to the game,” said Jill Womble, the Program Director for First Tee Tri-Valley.
Womble and the team at the First Tee saw the growth during the summer with their camps filling up. The two-hour mini camps that were held three times a day brought out 279 junior golfers through over nine weeks.
Following all pandemic protocols, each time slot was limited to eight golfers, as the local group was extremely diligent in their preparation and execution.
“We did temperature checks on all staff and campers each day,” explained Womble. “The biggest challenge was we had to find games more focused on the individual and keep the campers properly spaced.”
Working with any First Tee chapter is always a rewarding experience, but this might have taken it to the next level for Womble and the staff.
One reason is much of the staff were former First Tee members from their ACE- level – the highest level of participation – and those former players volunteered their time.
The other reason? The interaction with the campers.
“It was nice to get out and do things with kids that haven’t had anything to do,” said Womble. “The camps were just amazing.”
The camps also grew the game as Womble estimated that 20-25 percent of the campers were new to golf, with most of those being brought out by friends that have been previous First Tee participants.
While the kids were certainly appreciative so were the parents.
“There were some anxious parents at first,” said Womble. “But after they saw what we were doing and following all the protocols they were like, ‘Okay, see you later,’ and they left to go shopping or run errands.”
The success has continued as the Fall Classes currently underway are full of 190 participants spaced out in the afternoons after school.
Next up for the First Tee is the Fall Camp which will take place Nov. 23-25 – the three days before Thanksgiving. There are 24 spots open in each time slot for the camp which will cost $150 and is for kids 5-to-17 years of age.
There will be a new slate of classes starting in January.
One other program the Tri-Valley group has up and running is the PGA Hope, something they work with the Northern California PGA. PGA Hope introduces golf to veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.
“We have worked with 15 non-profits in the past, but there hasn’t been a big push to get any up and running with COVID,” said Womble regarding the Outreach branch of the group. “The Hope program we were able to get back up which is very exciting. We run it on Friday mornings.”
Because of the uncertainty of any event taking place when the initial shelter-in-place orders first happened, the group was forced to cancel their First Tee Tri-Valley Annual Golf Tournament at Castlewood.
The event has been a major fundraiser for First Tee Tri-Valley, leaving the group to go to an online fund-raising effort to make up for the loss. To see the donation levels, please go to www.thefirstteetrivalley.ejoinme.org/2020.
For more information on programs offered by the First Tee Tri-Valley, please go to www.firstteetrivlley.org.
By Dennis Miller