Originally created 09/05/01

Course for the Ages

The word is out about the First Tee Augusta Golf Course:

More than 500 area youngsters are in the program. Now an effort is being made to introduce the six-hole course, which opened April 2, to more adults.

Because the focus of the First Tee is to teach the game to juniors, some adults aren't aware that the course is open to golfers of all ages.

The cost for adults, not counting golf car, is $6 for six holes, $9 for nine holes, $12 for 12 holes and $18 for 18 holes. The driving range is also open to all ages.

"I've had people come in and say they want to get some information on the children's program," said First Tee head pro Blaine Patin. "I give them the information, and I tell them about the golf course and they say, 'Yeah, it looks like a wonderful golf course. I wish I could play it.' I tell them they can."

Now that school has started for most of the youngsters in the First Tee program, adults have the run of the place on weekdays until about 3 p.m. The course is always open to adults, unless special events are being held. The days of operation are Tuesday through Sunday, opening at 8 a.m. Starting times are not required.

"Right now, we just want people in the door," Patin said. "We want people to say, 'That's a great little golf course."' The First Tee course, located on Damascus Road, consists of four par 3s (which measure between 119 yards and 217 yards from the back tees), one par-4 (418 yards) and one par-5 (530 yards). It measures 1,582 yards from the back tees and 1,067 yards from the forward tees.

"Here, a good golfer can say it's a good test for me to play from the back tees, yet my son can play from the red tees and enjoy himself as well," Patin said.

Patin likes to see the interaction of adult groups and First Tee groups on the course. What he witnesses sometimes is a role reversal.

"When I played as a kid, I felt like 'Hey, I'm a child, I need to move out of the way for some adults,"' Patin said. "I want the adults to feel the same way because they've got three 8-year-olds just pushing the heck out of them."

It also can be a teaching tool for topics Patin covers in the First Tee etiquette classes on Thursdays. "If they (the juniors) are playing slow, they know the rules and say 'Please play through, thank you, have a good day, play well,' those types of things," Patin said. "So you really make a statement where an adult does come out, they'll say 'Hey, this is a great program, and they're learning the right things.' That's what I want to happen."

When the First Tee opened, Patin planned to have guest speakers from the community talk during some of the classes the players are required to attend. As it has turned out, he's enjoyed conducting the classes so much - and seeing the results - that he hasn't brought anyone in yet.

"Teaching classes is the biggest joy I've had," said Patin. Patin knows his work and the First Tee program has taken hold when he sees so many youngsters heading for his course after school. "It makes me feel good because you know now that they're back in school, they've got other priorities," Patin said. "When I was growing up, golf was always the second choice. You played golf when the other sports weren't there."

Little did Patin know how much of a role model he would become as the First Tee head pro. Last week, a man asked Patin to speak to his 8-year-old grandson for him.

"The kid is great around here," Patin said, "but the grandfather told me he has some problems in school and at home. He told me the boy lost his dad at an early age. I said, 'Sure, I'll talk to him, but what about?' He said about straightening up and acting right. He said, 'You don't understand, when he's at home, all he talks about is Mr. Blaine, Mr. Blaine.' "I told him I'd be honored to talk to him," Patin said. "It's kind of neat to have a bunch of these guys running around, looking up at you. It keeps me on my toes."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.


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