THAT'S LAUDERDALE

First Tee supporters: More to golf than yips, chips and putts

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comApril 15, 2014 

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With Tiger Woods hurt, all the talking heads are wondering what the game of golf needs to get more attention.

But a group on Hilton Head Island Tuesday night focused on what the game can give, not what it can get.

It can give a lot, said people like Jim and Karen Ferree. They said it can make the community, state and even the nation stronger.

The Ferrees have played at the highest levels and know all about the yips and lips of golf.

Between them, they could have talked to this gathering at the Sea Pines Country Club until they lost their voice boxes about the fundamentals of an aggravating game.

Instead, they talked about The First Tee program. As the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing takes flight on Hilton Head this week, they told why the host town needs a First Tee program and what it will take to get one.

The First Tee is a national program that began in 1997. It seeks to attract new players into the game. But it uses golf to teach children nine core values: Honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

The Ferrees co-chair the "launch committee" of volunteers that has raised $680,000 of the $1.5 million needed to build a golf teaching facility in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club of Hilton Head.

It was announced that the Long Cove Club community on the island has raised $250,000 for First Tee of the Lowcountry.

Golf course designer Clyde Johnston of Hilton Head has planned a teaching facility to be on 16 acres that the town owns beside the Boys & Girls Club on Gum Tree Road. It is to be named for the late Joseph B. Fraser Jr., who wanted the island he helped shape to have a First Tee program prior to his death in March.

Boys and Girls Club director Kim Likins cited the success of a program started more than 15 years ago by Harbour Town Golf Links professional John Farrell called "Hooked on Golf."

Touring pro James Hahn said he was taught nothing more when he was a child than hitting a ball until it went in a hole.

"I wish I could have taken from the game at an early age some of the lessons I see today," he said.

Jim Ferree, like his wife a member of the S.C. Golf Hall of Fame, joked about getting old and not playing well. "I've decided to donate to this instead of the guys I play with every week," he said. "At least I get a deduction for this."

Karen Ferree said more goes into the game than establishing a winner and a loser. It involves weighing pros and cons, respecting the opinions of others, listening, being responsible, dedicating time and energy to a goal, and the confidence that comes with things as simple as appropriate dress and properly introducing yourself.

Perhaps we should alert the pundits that there's more to golf than Tiger Woods.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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