Robyn Lorain learned early on how the game of golf can impact a young athlete.
At the tender age of 4, she first took to the links in her hometown of Longview, not only learning the game but also getting an education in sportsmanship, etiquette and courtesy.
“I’ve learned those life skills. Those have been huge,” Lorain said. “And I wish I had a program like this in our school.”
Lorain now is an assistant PGA golf pro at the Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent, where she shepherds the region’s First Tee National School Program, which aims to foster the same lessons she learned in students from kindergarten to the sixth grade.
“The program teaches life skills through the game of golf,” Lorain said. “The goal is to hook kids on the sport at an early age and teach them the values associated with the game.”
MVCC will host an April 29 fundraiser for the Auburn School District, with proceeds benefitting the First Tee program. The event will seek to raise the $3,000 each of the district’s 14 elementary schools needs to purchase the equipment, curriculum and training to install the program.
A portion of the money goes toward purchasing SNAG (Starting New at Golf) equipment, developed by former PGA players Terry Anton and Wally Armstrong. The SNAG equipment features oversized clubs that are used to strike balls, which are similar to tennis balls, only smaller. The balls are designed to stick like Velcro to specially designed targets. The equipment can be used for class sizes up to 48 students and utilized inside or outside.
According to Lorain, the program emphasizes nine core values – honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment – associated with golf that will help students in their regular life.
“The focus is teaching the kids to grow up to be good people and responsible citizens,” Lorain said. “So they’re practicing shaking hands, they’re practicing being respectful and giving each other positive impact.”
Evergreen Heights Elementary School students in John Ansotigue’s physical education classes already have experienced the First Tee program.
“She (Lorain) slowly taught us what to do with these things,” said Dallon Bennett, 11. “We learn sportsmanship. We shake hands before we play. We tell each other ‘good shot’ instead of ‘bad shot.’ We try to say good things about each other. We learn courtesy and safety.”
Twins Mya and Hailey Wagner, 11, see the program’s benefits.
“We are courteous when we play,” Mya said. “We use good sportsmanship. If someone misses the target, we tell them, ‘Oh that’s OK, you’ll do better next time.’ ”
The First Tee curriculum currently is used in more than 2,000 schools nationwide.
“We’re trying to expose kids to the sports who may not otherwise have the opportunity,” Lorain said. “Golf is a sport for everyone, of any background. It is really the only sport that you’re your own referee, so you have to be honest. Hopefully we’re teaching kids that an early age.
“The focus is really on character development,” Lorain said. “It’s amazing to watch the students as they grow up and develop those skills.”