PGA, Honda Classic and PGA Tour donate to First Tee program

03/06/07 -- PGA  - PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The PGA of America joined the Honda Classic and PGA Tour in presenting a check for $106,000 to the First Tee National School Program, a nationwide initiative to inject golf into the curriculum of elementary and middle school children. The donation will enable the purchase of equipment for 50 Palm Beach County (Fla.) elementary and middle schools, provide golf training for teachers and impact an estimated 35,000 local elementary students.

The presentation was made by PGA of America Chief Executive Officer Joe Steranka, who announced the Association's five-year commitment of $250,000 to The First Tee National School Program, as well as mutually agreed upon programs benefiting Palm Beach County youth. Joining Steranka at the ceremony was golfing legend Jack Nicklaus and wife Barbara Nicklaus, who is chair of the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, which supports The First Tee National School Program (NSP).

With 350 PGA Professionals employed in Palm Beach County, more than 2,700 holes of golf and approximately 4 million rounds played each year within its borders, Steranka said, "This places Palm Beach County as a leader in golf participation nationwide.

"The PGA of America is delighted to partner with The Honda Classic and PGA Tour in supporting this local initiative to attract more youngsters to the game of golf and to provide the best available instruction. The PGA of America has been a longtime supporter of The First Tee, and we are excited that Palm Beach County's schools will join in an ongoing program to grow participation in golf."

For the past four years, Barbara Nicklaus has guided the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation. She praised the new partnership between The PGA of America and The Honda Classic.

"It is one thing to have a partnership between The Honda Classic and The First Tee National School Program, but to have The PGA of America come in as a partner is just a wonderful thing for so many children in our area," said Barbara Nicklaus, who also chairs the year-old Children's Healthcare Charity Inc., which operates The Honda Classic. "This program will continue to grow with the expertise of PGA Professionals and impact thousands of children."

The check was presented to Michael Cooper, of Tampa, Fla., regional manager Southeast Region of the NSP, and Fred Barch, of West Palm Beach, Fla., an administrator representing the School District of Palm Beach County.

"This is one of the most significant partnerships we have in the entire National School Program," said Cooper. "It is amazing how many schools and how many participants we potentially have in Palm Beach County. I can't think of a better launch. I think we will be O.K.!"

The first group of Palm Beach County Schools that will participate in the program are: Palmetto Elementary, Lantana Elementary, Starlight Cove Elementary, Rolling Green Elementary, U.B. Kinsey/Palmview Elementary, Egret Lake Community Elementary, Forest Park Elementary, Cypress Trails Elementary, Orchard View Community Elementary, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary, Northboro Elementary, Seminole Trails Elementary, Heritage Elementary, Liberty Park Elementary and Lake Park Elementary.

"This program is much more than teaching the game of golf," said Barch, a science education instructor. "It is what Barbara Nicklaus has said, ?It teaches the game of life through the game of golf.' There are nine core values which are emphasized in The First Tee Program: confidence, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, good judgment and honesty. We see this as the beginning of a wonderful new relationship with The PGA of America."

The First Tee National School Program is an initiative of the World Golf Foundation. The program has impacted more than 490,000 students at 1,100 elementary schools nationwide during its first three years. Middle schools will be added to the list in 2007-08.

The golf curriculum is taught during physical education classes. Teachers are trained and provided with all of the equipment they need to implement the program. Golf community Professionals then provide teachers with information on opportunities for the kids to play and be involved with golf in their community. They also often visit schools and conduct clinics and other programs designed to enhance the instruction taking place in the physical education classes. The hope is that students will recognize golf as a lifelong recreation and physical fitness activity.

"We have a responsibility to give back to the game of golf," said Kenneth R. Kennerly, executive director of The Honda Classic. "The First Tee National School Program is a very important incentive for us."

The PGA of America is the world's largest working sports organization, comprised of 28,000 men and women golf Professionals who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf, while serving millions of people throughout its 41 PGA Sections nationwide. Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has enhanced its leadership position in a $62 billion-a-year industry, by growing the game of golf through its premier spectator events, world-class education and training programs, significant philanthropic outreach initiatives and award-winning golf promotions. Today's PGA Professional is the public's link to the game, serving an essential role in the operation of golf facilities throughout the country.

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