The Golf in School program’s reach has grown to 91,000 students from elementary to high school this year, and works to expose inner-city and suburban school districts to the game. The NJ Golf Foundation aims to reach over 100,000 students by the end of the 2012-13 school year.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger highlighted the First Tee program’s exponential growth, with 166 schools in the state incorporating the Golf in Schools program as part of their physical education curriculum as school begins this week.
The Golf in Schools program, fostered by the New Jersey PGA section’s charity outreach organization, will open the year reaching more than 91,000 students from elementary to high school. The NJ Golf Foundation aims to reach over 100,000 students through the program by the end of the 2012-13 school year, the Star-Ledger reported.
“I’m not surprised at how fast it’s grown,” said PGA New Jersey section Executive Director Scott Kmiec. “In the beginning, we had made it a mantra that if there was a school that was interested, we were never going to say, ‘No.’ We felt like if we could get the word out there that this program was being successful and was free for the schools, that it could grow very quickly.”
Golf in Schools began with inner-city school districts like Newark and Paterson, but has grown into suburban districts to expose kids to the game, which is frequently thought of as a hobby rather than a sport, the Star-Ledger reported.
“I was exposed to every sport growing up, except golf,” Kmiec said to the Star-Ledger. “I think the reality was that if you go back 15-20 years ago, private clubs had five-year waiting lists. Municipal courses? You were waiting in line for starting times. There were no high-end, daily-fee facilities. But now, because of the economy and people using their time differently, participation in golf is going down. And maybe if we had been doing these programs 10 years ago, maybe that pipeline of golfers — in New Jersey anyway — would’ve been more stable, because more kids would’ve been involved at a younger age.”
NJ Golf Foundation President Gregg Angelillo said one kid at the Edison school district expressed his passion for the program while filming shots for a local television crew, the Star-Ledger reported.
“There was this kid who was just hitting balls and someone asked him, ‘Do you want to have this program back next year?’” Angelillo recalled. “And he said, ‘Absolutely, I love this game.’”