The mission of The First Tee of Denver is to educate and inspire youth academically, socially, and physically through the game of golf.
In 2001, the Denver junior golf program was serving 200 children at one location with two levels of instruction. The Director of Golf charged the program with involving more children – particularly those who were underserved. Primarily, Denver’s municipal golf courses are located in older inner-city neighborhoods. The ethnic makeup of these neighborhoods is largely African-American and Hispanic. However, the participants in the city’s junior golf program were primarily Caucasian youth from more affluent areas of Denver. Golf was not only unpopular – it was strangely foreign to the kids who lived nearest to the golf course.
The former Junior Golf Director, David Kolquist, was a 30-year veteran teacher and coach. He went to the schools within walking distance of City Park Golf Course and met with school personnel and students. Recruitment meetings for the upcoming summer session netted eight kids. There was obviously a need for a new and different approach to introduce the target group of kids to golf. The challenge was to create a mindset that golf was not slow and boring, but fun, challenging, educational, worthwhile, and “cool.” The opportunity was to create an alternative for underserved youth to provide academic and character development outside the regular school setting. By involving the youth in fun, unique golf experiences and creating multiple, rewarding opportunities for continual involvement, the kids find a positive alternative that supports their growth into upstanding adults.
At that time, more than 90% of the children at the target school were in the free and reduced lunch program. Additionally the target school was ranked one of the worst academically when the Colorado State mandated testing was introduced. The junior golf program needed to be free/reduced fee and offer more than just golf. Thus, the 501c(3) program, The First Tee of Denver (TFTD), was created in order to raise dollars to supplement the junior golf program to give opportunities to children who might not have had them otherwise. Now every quadrant of Denver is served and programs are expanding into four surrounding counties.