Originally created 12/22/99

Ground broken for First Tee course

Groundbreaking was held Tuesday on the First Tee Augusta golf course, a six-hole learning and teaching facility on Damascus Road.

The course, to be designed by former Augustan Harrison Minchew of Palmer Golf Design, will be seeded in April and is scheduled to open in September.

The First Tee, a nationwide inititative of the World Golf Foundation, is dedicated to providing affordable and accessible playing and learning opportunities for beginning golfers ages 8-17.

The Augusta site is on a city-owned 40-acre plot of land that was formerly Village Square apartments. The land is leased for $1 a year for 20 years with two, 10-year options to renew.

"This is a good project," said Paul S. Simon, the chairman of the 24-person Fore! Augusta Foundation, Inc. "We will be helping children -- all chidren who might not be able to afford to take golf lessons."

Fore! Augusta Foundation, Inc., is a nonprofit organization that was established in June of 1998. Its mission is to raise funds to be used for development of a First Tee chapter in Augusta and the construction of buildings and exhibits for the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.

"The dream is becoming a reality," said Fred Palmer, vice president of national accounts for Club Car, one of many companies that is either donating their services or providing equipment at a reduced rate. Club Car will be giving First Tee "a significant discount on golf cars, utlity vechicles and other golf services," Palmer said.

Ranger Construction Co., of West Palm Beach, Fla., is building the course at no profit.

"The first time we flew up here, the question was asked to us, `Why would we want to build this for no profit?"' said Andy Johnston of Ranger Construction. "Truly, it's for the children."

Palmer Course Design is also doing its work at no cost.

"In a way, I'm giving back," Minchew said. "There's a lot of things you can learn playing golf."

The First Tee course will open the door for all youngsters to learn the game and then play it at the First Tee course. Lessons will be free and there will be a modest charge for green fees for First Tee members.

"Our biggest problem is when we teach them the fundamentals and let them practice, it's hard to get on a golf course," said Conan Sanders, the golf instructor for the Augusta Boys and Girls Club. "After you teach them, now they'll have a place to put it into practice."

"We embarked on this partnership that will pay lasting dividends to the young lives that will be influenced by the character traits that are associated with the game of golf," said Augusta Mayor Bob Young. "The city of Augusta is indeed pleased to make this property available for this First Tee project. We congratulate those in the private sector who have stepped forward to make this golf education center a reality."

"It seems fitting that we should be meeting here to celebrate the groundbreakingb of the First Tee Augusta course," said Kelly Martin, the First Tee managing director of facilities development."Augusta is a city that has produced so much remarkable historic golf, and is the home of one of the most legendary venues in golf, the Augusta national Golf Club. I think it's only right that this city that has given so much to the past of golf is now part of the celebration of its future."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.

First Tee Augusta

Important dates and information in the formation of the First Tee Augusta course, located at the corner of Damascus and Wrightsboro roads:

April 2000: The six-hole course is scheduled to be grassed.

September 2000: Scheduled opening date of the facility, which will include a practice facility.

On-line: The First Tee recently launched a Web site devoted to its national project called www.thefirsttee.com. The site focuses on children and includes educational and interactive features with "cyber" Tiger Woods as a guide. The site also lists all First Tee locations and opening dates.


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