CHARLOTTE, NC – With the 2022 Presidents Cup in Charlotte for the first time ever, a local youth golf program says enthusiasm and interest in the game is on the rise, with the potential to grow even more.
At the Pineville Learning Center for First Tee of Greater Charlotte, executive director Daniel Fogarty said golf is becoming a bigger game.
“He has continued to grow and I think he will continue to grow. And when you have highlights like the Presidents Cup in town, it just keeps adding fuel to that fire. We see a much more diverse sport – age-wise, gender-wise, racially, golf is becoming a much more inclusive sport,” Fogarty said.
What do you want to know
- Greater Charlotte’s first tee says the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed more people into golf
- Executive Director Daniel Fogarty says First Tee expects another surge in interest after the Presidents Cup
- First Tee offers programs to thousands of elementary and secondary age children
Greater Charlotte’s first tee began in the late 2000s and serves Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. It is one of 150 chapters of First Tee worldwide.
Fogarty and First Tee instructors work with approximately 4,500 local children in after-school programs and provide school programs to 120,000 students in more than 210 elementary schools.
“COVID has really caused an explosion in golf at all ages. It has continued to grow, and I believe it will continue to grow. And when you have highlights like the Presidents Cup in town, it continues to throw add fuel to this fire,” Fogarty added.
First Tee, a non-profit organization affiliated with the PGA, helps children access golf clubs, lessons and scholarships. After-school programs cost less than $100 and last 8-10 weeks. Programming at the school is free for children.
Apart from golf, First Tee and its instructors say they also teach life skills.
“You know, we don’t build great golfers, we build great people for the Charlotte community. And so, through the life skills and core values we teach – honesty, integrity, perseverance – just teach kids to be great people,” said instructor Mark Lathan, while giving a lesson to a new 17 year old local came.
In fact, Lathan describes himself as a late convert to golf.
“I’ve been playing now for about six years. I learned the game quite late, around the age of 18. And I had good mentors who helped me through this ordeal. And I fell in love with it enough that I wanted to help develop the game,” Lathan said.
After falling in love with the sport, Lathan took a job as an instructor, wanting to teach the next generation of youngsters how to play.
“I’m the site manager for First Tee of Greater Charlotte, and I’ve been working here for a year now. So it’s teaching kids, developing play and helping,” Lathan said.
Since then, he has introduced children to sport.
“It means a lot. It means the world to me to be able to help them. I’m trying to be able to grow the game in my community, the minority communities and the First Tee is just a great transition, a great opportunity to help them added Lathan.
For more details on the First Tee program or to find your local chapter, click here.