We visited Rancho del Pueblo Golf Course in San Jose which is a public course in East San Jose that is the venue for participants of The First Tee of Silicon Valley. We really appreciated the time that Executive Director, George Maxe, spent with us in explaining how the program works. I have a keen interest in The First Tee since I’ve always been interested in the development of young people in education as well as a holistic view of their future capability to participate in society and realize their full potential. In this piece, I’m not going to detail the programs of the First Tee of Silicon Valley but I would like to demonstrate the vehicle of golf as an enabler of youth development and education through the efforts of this organization.
Growing up in the inner city of New Haven, Connecticut, not all that different from East San Jose, there was no such thing as golf. Golf was Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf on black and white TV on Saturdays when it rained and there was nothing better to do. Much later in life, I learned that golf is not just a game, it is microcosm of life itself where etiquette, behavior and manners are essential. In games that I played, such as basketball, football etc., the more emotional you became, the adrenaline that accompanied the feeling somehow could spur you to improved performance. In golf, I found out that the madder you become, the worse things are and your performance deteriorates geometrically.
Our visit to Rancho was amazing for me. Children of all ages arrive at the golf course at their appointed times and formally register in the pro shop. It’s funny to see that some of the golf clubs and golf bags are as big as the kids themselves. They are held responsible for their actions and understand the protocol that is required. What is impressive about the program is that each participant is aware of the requirements and understands why these requirements without important. Each action such as registering in the pro shop, warming up with calisthenics, heading to the driving range, chipping and putting are all done uniformly (irrespective of age group), crisply and with a smile. You might conclude that none of these actions and processes are particularly difficult, but the uniformity of the process and instruction is critical to the execution of the processes. It was also obvious to me that these children-I’m guessing ages 8-16 are happy to be here and a learning a game that they can play for the rest of their lives.
I was very impressed by the staff of the First Tee of Silicon Valley. These people are committed to the kids and do whatever they can to enrich the experience. They have significant experience teaching the game in all of its aspects from golf instruction, social norms and discipline. We all know that the game of golf is complex and we never know what swing we will bring to the course on any particular day. Looking at it this way, golf is a lot like life itself. Helping these kids achieve success through golf whether it be golf skills or simply learning how to play the game provides and important alternative to the daily grind of peer pressure and everyday issues that life presents.
The First Tee of Silicon Valley is a significant asset of this community and one only needs to see the looks on the faces of the parents to understand how vital this program is to their child’s development.
(all photos used with the permission of The First Tee of Silicon Valley)