First Tee kids introduced to careers in golf

The program was hosted by Georgia superintendents and John Deere friends.

July 25, 2013
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Georgia golf course superintendents and the John Deere company recently teamed together to give youngsters from The First Tee of Atlanta an intimate look into potential careers in the golf industry. Georgia GCSA director, Mike Crawford, who is certified golf course superintendent at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, hosted 24 aspiring golfers between the ages of 12 and 17 on a day-long course and facility tour in July.

The outing was part of a new “Careers on Course” program included in John Deere’s landmark $1-million commitment to the First Tee organization, announced in February.

“Hopefully we helped open some eyes for these kids about future career paths they might follow in golf,” Crawford says. “Some of the kids were very, very engaged and their questions were outstanding. They showed a genuine interest in the industry, not just the game.”

Indeed, according to an on-site show of hands as well as a post-tour survey of participants more than a dozen attendees will now consider careers in golf either as golf course superintendents, general managers or golf professionals.

One of them was Bahsir Chuma, a 15-year-old from North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs who carries a seven handicap. “I want to get a golf scholarship and go to college,” he said. “I think a future in golf would be great but I had no idea that getting the golf course ready was quite this complicated.”

Alejandra Ayala, 13, has similar ambitions and had a similar reaction to the behind-the-scenes introduction. “I knew a little about what went on but had no idea about how much,” she said. “I like the turf part of it.”

Sub-groups moved through various stations covering subjects including greens management, plant protection, water management, golf and the environment, turfgrasses and equipment. Crawford’s assistant superintendent Andrew Saft and Ralph Kepple, CGCS from East Lake Golf Club, host of the Tour Championship, also provided expert tuition.

Mark Hendricks, Allen Weed and Tim Boles from Georgia GCSA diamond patron and John Deere distributor, Greenville Turf and Tractor, gave extensive equipment demonstrations. University of Georgia turfgrass researcher, Dr. Clint Waltz, covered turfgrass science.

Over lunch, the group also heard from TPC Sugarloaf staff members including general manager and director of golf, Blane Merritt, director of sales and marketing, Brandon Cockrell, director of food and beverage, Tyler Hagin, and assistant golf professional, Tyler Graham.

The First of Atlanta’s programs director, Jenae Jenkins, applauded TPC Sugarloaf and John Deere for providing such an in-depth and hands-on experience. “This is a wonderful opportunity and it fits with what I tell the kids all the time,” Jenkins said. “I tell them all the time that you don’t have to be a good player to be able to be involved in the golf industry.”

Other locations in 2013 for the Careers on Course program include the TPC Boston and Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, in Chicago. The program is expected to expand to other courses in future.

Two participants from each chapter involved in the initial events will have the opportunity to shadow a superintendent as he or she prepares their golf course for an official PGA TOUR event, including the Deutsche Bank Championship in August; the BMW Championship in September; and the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in September.

For more information contact  Mike Crawford, CGCS TPC Sugarloaf at (770) 622-2215