FORE! Kent schools teeing up for new program

Robyn Lorain

Robyn Lorain

Last school year, students at Panther Lake Elementary School, along with a handful of others in the Kent School District, got their first swing at a new program designed to introduce kids to the game of golf.

“It was fabulous,” said Panther Lake physical education teacher Coleen Schlichte. “My kids loved it.”

But like the grown-up version of the game, golf does not come cheaply. The special equipment used as part of the First Tee program that teaches golf to children runs almost $3,000 per set.

“I would never had that in my budget to afford this,” Schlichte said.

But following a story last spring in the Kent Reporter about the program at Kent Elementary, members of the Meridian Valley Country Club decided to host a fundraiser to try and raise the money to bring the program to 10 of Kent’s Elementary Schools.

According to assistant pro Robyn Lorain, who first

the program to the district, an anonymous club member even offered a $10,000 matching donation.

The club hosted a fundraiser auction and tournament in August and when all was said and done, Meridian Valley had raised more than enough money.

“We really had no idea what to expect,” Lorain said, adding “Everybody wanted to be a part of it.”

In total, Meridian Valley raised $104,000 during their fundraiser. It was the first private club to host such a fundraiser and members officially presented the check to the Kent School Board in October.

“We exceeded our expectations and had enough money to fund all schools in the Kent School District,” Lorain said.

The money will pay for the equipment – bright plastic golf clubs designed for kids and a series of velcro targets with special balls – as well as training for teachers. The program is expected to be fully integrated by early next year.

Lorain said the First Tee program is based around the “Nine Core Values” of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment, all of which come into play both in life and on the golf course, where there are no judges or referees and each player is trusted to keep their own score.

“We like to relate these skills to what happens in everyday life,” Lorain said. “We want to teach these kids golf skills as well as life skills.”

But because golf requires special equipment, as well as greens fees to play, the sport can sometimes be out of reach to some families. By bringing First Tee into the schools, all of the kids in the Kent district will get to take a swing at the game, its supporters hope.

“This provides an opportunity to a lot of students that might otherwise not have access to the game,” Lorain said.

Along with teaching the values, Schlichte said golf meets the state-mandated essential academic learning requirement and grade level expectation of “striking consistently to a specific area using a manipulative.” Schilchte also said it keeps the kids active almost the whole time they are in class and she can use it to teach fair play.

“It moves quickly. I can get all my kids on task and involved and it is a good teamwork activity,” she said, adding “It also teaches them those life skills you want: fair play, working as a team, taking turns.”

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