At the Mosholu Golf Course in the Bronx, 3rd-graders from PS 119 quietly took small clubs firmly in hand and concentrated on the proper grip and stance for putting, chipping and driving — the three main swings in golf.
Just 15 minutes earlier, the same 25 children had been bounding around the nearby picnic area.
Teachers and paraprofessionals from the Castle Hill school in the Bronx have observed that transformation from fidgetiness to focus in students since the school began participating in the First Tee program in the fall of 2017.
“It seems as if they have more patience,” said the students’ co-teacher Anelyn Quezada. “They have to wait their turn, and they have to wait for instructions.”
That’s part of the plan with First Tee, a program created by the Professional Golfers Association, the Ladies Professional Golfers Association and other golf groups to introduce young people to golf.
“It’s not about training to be a superstar golfer,” said Anthony Rodriguez, the senior program director for Mosholu’s First Tee program. “It’s about character development and social skills and building relationships with fellow players and coaches.”
As they learn how to play the game, students learn the vocabulary of the game, including the parts of the golf club and the golf course.
First Tee also offers tutoring and leadership training for older students and a summer program with discounted prices to ensure all students have the chance to participate.
Paraprofessional Roberto Lopez said the students, who were on their second trip to the course, are eager to learn about the game. “They’re heeding the instructions, making adjustments in how they swing the club,” he said.
And they’re learning to love the sport, too.
“We have a lot of fun while we’re doing all this work,” said one 8-year-old. Her classmate agreed: “I love golf. It’s awesome.” A 9-year-old said it’s “satisfying when you see how far the ball goes.”
After practicing their swings on the driving range, several girls crowded around one of the Mosholu coaches to ask if they could come back again. That excitement was exactly what Elizabeth McGovern, Quezada’s co-teacher and the PS 119 chapter leader, was hoping to spark because, she said, “some of our girls are not doing outdoor activities.”
For Lopez, learning golf has widened these 3rd-graders’ horizons.
“Our students don’t have many trips and experiences like this,” said Lopez. “Ms. McGovern is known for making sure they have access.”