ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The First Tee program, launched six months ago with hopes of building 100 golf facilities for kids by the year 2000, got a major boost Sunday when the PGA of America gave $6 million.
Half of the money, spread over three years, will go toward administration and operation of the program. The other $3 million will be available to local PGA sections to develop First Tee facilities.
The $6 million is the largest single donation to The First Tee since its inception in November. Jackson Stephens, retired chairman of Augusta National, donated $5 million from his personal account.
"We want to see golf continue, and we want to do our part ... to make golf a better game," said Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA.
The announcement was made just outside the World Golf Hall of Fame, which opens Monday when Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo are inducted and 71 previous members are enshrined anew.
Like the World Golf Village, The First Tee is supported by virtually every organization in golf. The idea is to make golf accessible and affordable to youngsters, particularly minorities.
The average age of the beginning golfer is 29 and less than 2 percent of children ages 12-17 are introduced to golf each year, according to the National Golf Foundation, one of the project's sponsors.
Among the options for First Tee facilities will be a 3-hole course, a pitch-and-putt course, a 9-hole course and 18-hole courses. All will include a practice range and putting green as well as classroom and meeting space.
"The challenge facing us is to bring golf to those around the country who have not had access to the game," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "The potential for growth is enormous."
Along with $1 million a year for at least three years, the PGA of America will provide $3 million in grants during the same time. The PGA has more than 23,000 professionals working in 41 sections of the country, all of whom had apply for money to develop First Tee facilities.
Also, the PGA said it would take a lead role in developing The First Tee curriculum, supply a financial model for creating facilities and provide local instruction.
"Our commitment to The First Tee program is a reflection of our mission to make golf more affordable and accessible for people from all walks of life," Awtrey said.
Finchem said the goal remains to at least identify 100 sites for facilities by the year 2000, increasing to more than 1,000 facilities in the first 10 years.
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