April 16, 2021
The First Tee of Delaware is part of the national First Tee program, using golf to instill values and life skills in the children participating in summer sessions and year-round programming.
Notable First Tee of Delaware alumni include Earl Cooper, a PGA professional at Union League Golf Club near Philadelphia who has an instructional feature in the April issue of Golf Digest magazine.
The Delaware chapter includes the entire state as well as Worcester County, MD.
Until recently, First Tee of Delaware’s most active programming tended to be upstate, with notable exceptions such as American Classic Golf Club’s participation in years past.
The organization’s commitment to southern Delaware is undergoing a welcome and significant expansion, led locally by Rich Kapolka, chair of First Tee’s SoDel Committee.
Kapolka and First Tee of Delaware Executive Director Bob Norris invited me to attend their Player Coach Training Session, held April 5 at Mulligan’s Pointe Golf Club near Georgetown.
When I arrived, LPGA/PGA professional Becky Dengler was busy leading a group of eight volunteers, there to earn credentials for the summer programs to be held in Kent and Sussex Counties.
Dengler led the volunteers through a sample of the kinds of lessons they will eventually impart to program participants, such as jumping jacks for warming up, and running to and from a cone-shaped circle to retrieve colored balls.
Asking middle-aged and senior folks who have just met each other to do these sorts of exercises usually leads to a lot of laughter. This was no exception.
Dengler explained that a typical session includes a meet and greet, a few exercises, presenting a core value for consideration, and tying that value to training on a specific golf skill, such as chipping or putting.
Sessions for children 4 to 6 years old tend to run for 60 minutes, while sessions for 7- to 12-year-olds take 90 minutes.
During the hours spent at Mulligan’s, the volunteers received instruction from Dengler and First Tee program Director Charma Bell on creating learning environments, developing relationships with the children, lesson plan delivery, safety considerations, and policies and procedures for the new coaches.
In addition to the training sessions, volunteers also undergo a full criminal background check, with the expense for that process funded by First Tee’s national program.
The golf instruction, while important, is a means to an end. The goal is to have the children learn valuable life skills and healthy habits, including honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, judgment, and consideration.
Norris singled out Mulligan’s Pointe member Cathy Cosgrove for her role in helping to bring the training sessions to her club. “Mulligan’s is a model for what we would like other clubs to do. The number of session volunteers we can provide helps convince the head pros to agree to make their clubs available.”
Cosgrove said she and her husband moved to the area a few years ago, and became members at Mulligan’s. Her children are active golfers, and she said, “I’m retired and had plenty of time. I talked to [Mulligan’s head pro] John Wallett, and it was a slow process at first. But we managed to set up a training program in October, with seven adults. Now we have a schedule of First Tee [sessions] to run in June and August,” she said. “I really want to bring in kids who’ve never been on a golf course.”
Cosgrove credited Mulligan’s Pointe owner Pete Townsend, marketing manager Michelle Depalma, and Wallett for their support. “They have been instrumental in making this happen,” she said.
Kapolka noted that “Volunteers are at the heart of what we do. We now have programs that we will start soon at Mulligan’s Pointe, Plantation Lakes, Hoopers Landing, Ocean Resorts, and the Rookery. These new programs will enhance the existing programs at Bear Trap, American Classic, Garrisons Lake, and Eagle Creek.”
Prospective new coaches may contact Kapolka at rkapolka @msn.com for more information or go to firstteedelaware.org.
Clothing Our Kids tournament set for Sept. 27
The 7th Clothing Our Kids tournament returns Sept. 27 to The Peninsula Golf & Country Club in Millsboro, with the theme “Tee Up For Kids.”
COK raises funds to provide shoes and clothing for needy school-age children in every elementary school in Sussex County. Since its inception the charity has helped over 26,000 children with nearly 150,000 clothing items.
The pandemic caused the cancellation of last year’s COK events, making this fall’s tournament the first major fundraiser for the organization since 2019.
Ocean Atlantic/Schell Brothers is the top-level Tournament Trustee, and many more sponsorship opportunities remain available. For more information go to clothingourkids.org or contact Kathleen Blouin at kblouin @outlook.com.
Local club competition results
The Mulligan’s Pointe Ladies 18 Hole group played a Net Pars or Better game April 13.
Carol MacFawn won first place, with Ann Reid in second and Wendy Michaelson in third.