MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The First Tee of West Virginia youth golf program is entering its 20th year.
And under the guidance of the West Virginia Golf Association it has expanded over the last five-plus years.
The program, which is for kids ages 5-18 interested in the sport of golf, is held at seven different golf courses around the state, including at Mountaineer Golf Course in Morgantown.
It’s also in around 140 elementary schools across the state, according to Program Director Jeff Preast.
During the summer, children can get out on the course and learn the ropes of the sport from teachers of various backgrounds, including, in Morgantown, a former Fairmont State golf coach.
“It teaches them values. We have core values that help them prepare for life, and learn how to handle different situations. The socialization of it. They learn golf, which is a great game that they can play for the rest of their lives,” said Brenda Moran, who is one of the instructors in Morgantown.
Moran is a former coach of the Fairmont State women’s golf team. She also hopes that kids not only see where the game can take them on TV, but locally, as well, with the success of the West Virginia University golf program, along with other collegiate programs.
“We all want to see golf to continue to the next generation. And we also want to see West Virginia kids be able to take advantage of all the things that golf offers out there, because statistically West Virginia is low, especially in girls golf participation,” Moran said.
Of course, like most things, the program has been altered and affected due to COVID-19, which actually shut down registration ahead of the program’s spring season.
The program normally starts during the early spring in April, but that was postponed due to the pandemic.
But registrations are back open for the summer and early fall sessions.
In Morgantown, there will be a trio of six-week class sessions for kids to learn the game.
“We’ll have an early-summer, a mid-summer, and a fall session, with the exception of our Charlestown location. It will operation on two nine-week sessions,” said Preast.
Life lessons are a big part of The First Tee of West Virginia program.
“Golf is kind of unique, because if you think about it, golf is a sport that kind of parallels with life. You have highs and lows of the game. You may hit a good shot, and get a bad break. Or you may hit a bad shot and get a good break. It’s all about perseverance and moving forward,” said Preast.
Preast also said that changes have been made to how the course is normally taught in order to adhere to social distancing, and other policies currently in place due to COVID-19. That includes slightly smaller class sizes, having instructors wear masks, and changing the schedule of the sessions.
We were able to speak with a father and son duo out of Morgantown, who have experienced The First Tee program first-hand.
“I like all the games that we play, like golf baseball, and stuff,” said Landon Wallace, age 9.
“The location here in Morgantown – it’s right there at Mountaineer Golf Course, and they have a driving range. So, after a lot of the classes Landon and I would spend some time hitting together on the driving range. So it gave us an opportunity to do that together,” Landon’s father Jeff said.
If you’re interested in registering your young golfer in The First Tee of West Virginia program, you can do so on the program’s website, which is linked here.