By Ken MacLeod
Joe Louis Barrow Jr., the CEO of the First Tee, visited the Oklahoma City and Tulsa chapters on June 1 and 2, and pronounced both as exemplary chapters of the national organization.
"I love visiting chapters," Barrow said. "It reinforces the impact the chapters are having on the young people. When Janice (Gibson, executive director of the First Tee of Tulsa)or Debi Martin (Executive Director of the First Tee of Oklahoma City) tell me what’s happening with the young people in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, it shows me that we’re on the right track."
Gibson, Martin and their counterparts nationwide are indeed reaching a staggering amount of youth, not just at First Tee facilities such as the Tulsa chapter at Mohawk Park or the First Tee Learning Center on Martin Luther King Dr. in Oklahoma City, but through satellite programs and school outreach programs. First Tee put a club in the hands of four million children in 2014 alone, with 10.5 million reached since its inception in 1997 and a goal of reaching 19 million additional children from 2015 to 2018.
Part of the intent remains to create golfers, but the larger goal remains to create better citizens through the organization’s nine core values, which are The message has been refined but remains based around the nine core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, courtesy, judgment, confidence, responsibility and perseverance.
"We use golf because of its inherent values of perseverance, confidence, integrity and respect," Barrow said. "What they learn on the golf course they can take and use throughout life."
There is no way to measure how many students reached at a school PE class or even those who take lessons at the facilities become life long golfers. Barrow believes firmly that First Tee is creating golfers and one measure is that for many young minority students who come to First Tee now say that it is not their first exposure to the game.
"That number is dropping, which means they are no being reached at the schools. We’ve trained more than 5,000 PE teachers and that is remarkable. They have learned our curriculum and it is having an impact. They are finding the kids in the home rooms now are much more respectful because of what they’re learning in PE."
Barrow has slowed his own travels considerably since suffering a stroke in November of 2013 but said he’s doing great, following his exercise and rehabilitation program and improving constantly. He is the son of Joe Louis, recognized as one of the best boxers in history.