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Daily News Record

Golf Program Tees Off

CEO Louis Barrow Says First Tee Will Teach Life Lessons


ABOVE: Joe Louis Barrow Jr., CEO of The First Tee, speaks to area supporters of the program at the opening ceremony for the new learning center at Heritage Oaks Golf Club as First Tee students (from left) Brittany McDonaldson, 15, of Harrisonburg, Bryce Whetzel, 17, of Broadway, and Wes Riddle, 14, of Rockingham County, look on. BELOW: Barrow, son of famed boxer Joe Louis, spends much of his time passing down childhood lessons of golf and life to today's youngsters.

HARRISONBURG — The father of Joe Louis Barrow Jr. earned fame in the boxing ring, but Joe Louis taught his son a different sport.

“My father was a golfer, too, and he introduced me to golf when I was 4 or 5 years old,” Barrow said Saturday at Heritage Oaks Golf Club in Harrisonburg.

Barrow, 62, spends much of his time passing down those child­hood lessons of golf and life to le­gions of today’s youngsters. For the past 10 years, Barrow has served as chief executive officer of The First Tee. The nonprofit orga­nization uses golf to teach kids not only the game, but also the values and respect that the game embod­ies — and that they can use in all facets of life.

On Saturday, Barrow was in Harrisonburg to speak at the grand opening of the new First Tee of Harrisonburg- Rotary Learning Center at Heritage Oaks, the city-owned golf course off Garbers Church Road. Work on the 4,800-square-foot building, be­gun in December, officially con­cluded Friday. The Harrisonburg Rotary Club contributed $55,000 toward the $440,000 facility, which features four hitting bays, including one with mounted cameras for golf in­struction.

Barrow’s visit was part of a day capped by the Eighth Annual Har­risonburg First Tee Golf Classic, a fundraiser for The First Tee pro­gram in Harrisonburg.

Founded in 2002, The First Tee of Harrisonburg now has more than 200 members between the ages of 5 and 17. The First Tee's parent program, begun in 1997 by the World Golf Foundation, totals 2.9 million members from 49 of the 50 states, as well as Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Singapore, said Barrow.

Though the game of golf is of course an integral part of The First Tee program, the initiative teaches young people as much about the game of life, said Barrow.

"Our goal is to introduce young people to the inherent values associated with the game of golf, which teaches them how to set goals and use good judgment," he said.

According to Barrow, studies done by four universities, including the University of Virginia, in the last six years statistically show that First Tee participants improved in various areas of their lives, from schoolwork to social skills.

Core Values

Along with close access to a practice course, The First Tee program incorporates nine "core values" - honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment - into its curriculum, said Mike Layman, who chairs the board of directors of the local First Tee chapter . A sign on a wall in the Learning Center lists those values.

Members of The First Tee's Harrisonburg chapter say the program has had positively impacted their lives. Wes Riddle, 14, from Bridgewater, said he "learned a whole lot" about etiquette and rules since joining the program in 2002. Brittany McDonaldson, 15, from Harrisonburg, said being in The First Tee program helped her learn "sportsmanship and leadership skills."

The First Tee offers Bryce Whetzel, 17, a rising senior at Broadway High School, "a place to relax," he said, and adds that participating in it helped his confidence on and off the course.

Layman said the Learning Center will give children in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County easier access to a place to learn golf, as well as ways to apply its rules of conduct to life. The Learning Center will also accommodate young golfers outside The First Tee program: as many as 1,000 area youths attend other golf-related activities at the club, said Layman.

Use of a new facility, which will also be open to adults, ends the problem of having First Tee events halted by bad weather, said Layman, referring to the cancellation of several events in the spring due to rain.

Said Layman: "Now we can run ourprograms all year round."

Heritage Estates is a Scripture Community, along with Island Ford Estates, Congers Creek and Founders Way.
Information provided, including square footage, is deemed to be accurate but is not guaranteed. All information should be independently verified.
Heritage Estates is marketed by Scott Rogers, Suzanne Trow & Carey Keyes of Funkhouser Real Estate Group.