SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – After a long winter, the birds have returned, and so have the golfers. The young golfers out on the course are part of a program called The First Tee that teaches them how to properly play the game.
“The First Tee is a youth development program,” said program director Treyla Lee. “And it’s an opportunity to teach life skills with the game of golf, so we use the game of golf as our classroom.”
The First Tee of Siouxland teaches those main aspects of the sport: driving, chipping, and putting.
“I like how it’s skill based and a lot of it is as you age you get better at the game so I just wanna see how good I can get once I’m older,” said Luka Ernesti, a 13-year-old member of The First Tee.
“I like putting because when you get the ball into the hole it feels like I just scored a home run in baseball,” said Colby Mullen, another First Tee golfer.
But beyond the basics, The First Tee is about kids having fun.
“I like doing this because it gives me something to do to get out of the house during the day, and I get to do this with my friends,” said Caleb Mullen, Colby’s older brother who first got into the sport five years ago.
Maria Zorrilla is one of the program’s coaches. Golf has always been a part of her life, and she enjoys helping the next generation learn.
“So I’ve been playing golf since I was six so I’ve always been really involved with it and I’m really interested in being a coach,” Zorrilla said.
But the focus of The First Tee isn’t just golf lessons, it’s life lessons.
“We would incorporate driving the ball into responsibility, so you’re responsible for your space, you’re responsible for the balls that you hit, and you’re responsible for making sure that you and others are safe,” Lee said.
“We have our nine core values,” Zorrilla said. “And we talk about integrity, sportsmanship, responsibility, honesty, but we also talk with them about how to use it school and how to use it in their day to day life.”
Off the course, and in the classroom, the objective is to improve the lives of these golfers.
“It’s helped me get along with my teachers more because my coaches are kind of like my teachers so that helps me,” Caleb Mullen said.
Responsibility is something the First Tee focuses on heavily, because of it’s importance to both golf and life in general.
“It helps us know how to act in situations where we wouldn’t know how to act before, it teaches you how to be responsible and not to forget things you should do,” said Maria Ernesti, Luka’s younger sister and a member of the program.
As the weather improves, more and more young golfers will head out to courses to learn more about golf, and more about the things they can do to improve their lives.