JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - At a Washington news conference Wednesday, the Citizens Against Government Waste gave The First Tee, a program headquartered at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., an award no one wants.
The Tax Payers Get Teed Off Award, one of 14 Oinker Awards listed in the watchdog group's annual Pig Book, goes to The First Tee. The nonprofit program that provides "life skills education" and golf instruction to young people, many of whom might not otherwise be exposed to golf, received $3 million in two separate appropriations in this year's federal budget. One came from the Department of Education and the other from the Department of Justice.
The First Tee, which is part of The World Golf Foundation, had a budget last year of about $8 million to run 146 facilities serving more than 100,000 children.
"It may be a worthwhile program," said Tom Schatz, Citizens Against Government Waste president. "But it's not clear why the federal government should be involved. ... When I go out and hit golf balls, I don't expect the taxpayers to pay for it."
But Joe Louis Barrow Jr., the executive director of The First Tee and a senior vice president of The World Golf Foundation, said such criticism is unfair because it comes from people who don't understand that First Tee is a youth development program.
"Not only is it unfortunate but I think it's irresponsible to put us on this list when they have made no effort to understand our life skills program," Mr. Barrow said. "But we remain steadfast in knowing that what we are doing is having a positive impact on the lives of young people across the country.
"If they were to speak to any of the parents whose children are participants in The First Tee, they would know firsthand that the real lessons being taught at The First Tee reach beyond the golf course," Mr. Barrow said. "The First Tee is a youth initiative, similar to the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs, that promotes character development and life-enhancing values."
In fact, he said, some of the federal money First Tee received went to studies by the University of Florida and University of Nevada at Las Vegas that looked at the effectiveness of The First Tee Life Skills Education program launched in 2001.
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