Spotlight on | Golf

Students use The First Tee of Miami to learn life’s lessons, values through golf

 
 
Charlie DeLucca Jr. beams as he talks with sports writers about The First Tee Miami Learning Center on opening day of the center on Jan. 26, 2013. DeLucca founded The First Tee and envisioned it as a place for education and golf training for youngsters. DeThe new nearly $2 million golf and learning facility is open to youngsters ages 5 to 18. The new facility is at 1802 NW 37th Ave., at Melreese Golf Course in Miami. It includes functional training bays, play and art areas, and a spacious learning center where youngsters can get tutoring, do homework or other creative activities. The First Tee of Miami Learning Center is the result of public-private partnerships. DeLucca and his son, Charlie DeLucca III, The First Tee Miami's executive director, worked together to secure the partnerships.
Charlie DeLucca Jr. beams as he talks with sports writers about The First Tee Miami Learning Center on opening day of the center on Jan. 26, 2013. DeLucca founded The First Tee and envisioned it as a place for education and golf training for youngsters. DeThe new nearly $2 million golf and learning facility is open to youngsters ages 5 to 18. The new facility is at 1802 NW 37th Ave., at Melreese Golf Course in Miami. It includes functional training bays, play and art areas, and a spacious learning center where youngsters can get tutoring, do homework or other creative activities. The First Tee of Miami Learning Center is the result of public-private partnerships. DeLucca and his son, Charlie DeLucca III, The First Tee Miami's executive director, worked together to secure the partnerships.
MARSHA HALPER / Miami Herald Staff

Special to the Miami Herald

There they stood on the driving range earlier this week at International Links-Melreese Golf Course.

About 72 elementary school physical education teachers whacking golf balls. Some hit the ball 250 yards or more, but many more were dribbling it 25 yards or even less.

Golf wasn’t the main thing they were learning, though. They were learning to teach children life values, and golf was just a means to getting to those values. The training, under the auspices of The First Tee of Miami, wasn’t just a local effort, either. The First Tee, on the national level, had sent several trainers and teachers as part of the program.

“You can go through a quarter of million kids playing golf, and you’ll end up with a half dozen that make it to the pro level,” said Charlie DeLucca III, executive director of The First Tee of Miami. “You can teach many, many more kids life values that will help them stay in school and graduate.

“You tell me which is more important? Seems pretty easy to answer. It’s not just golf. Golf is the vehicle to values — mental development and happiness — that help kids.”

The First Tee program has nine core values — honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment — that it centers more emphasis on than how to line up a putt or hit down on the ball.

How important is the program? Rory McIlroy won a First Tee event, the Doral Publix Championship, as a child, and to this day he refers to it as, “My first major.”

So, all those teachers on the driving range this week were getting themselves into something bigger than they knew. As the day ended, they were given a written test, which most likely had questions about core values, as well as hitting a golf ball.

The Miami First Tee has become a model program for other chapters, some 186 of them around the country.

Benna Cawthorn, a national representative of The First Tee who was in Miami for the training, said, “The First Tee of Miami, it’s the best at what we do.”

The elementary school teachers, who were given $3,000 worth of golf equipment to take back to their schools, did not just learn about golf. They learned about those values that The First Tee and Charlie DeLucca III and his father, Charlie DeLucca Jr., preach with a passion. A passion that’s much more impressive than a 350-yard drive or hole-in-one or anything else you can achieve on the golf course.

“I would sincerely like them to be golfers,” Charles DeLucca III said of all the children he has worked with daily for 32 years. “Make no doubt, I think golf is a unique sport. But as far as these kids are concerned, given the choice, I would much rather see them graduate and go to college.

“Actually, it would be great if they did both.”

Palmetto update

The Palmetto golf course shut down this summer, as many courses do, to make upgrades and changes.

It has reopened, and they succeeded on the greens, which are better than ever. Smooth and accurate.

Traps have also been redone with new sand.

However, because of the extremely soggy summer weather, the course could not get the fairways to the improved condition they wanted. But that will happen, according to course general manager Tom Gibson. “That’s our goal and it will occur,” Gibson said.

That’s a fact, jack

Scotland, as is widely known, is the birthplace of golf. What most people don’t know is that golf was banned in Scotland from 1457 to 1502 to ensure citizens would not waste time when preparing for an English invasion.

Read more Golf stories from the Miami Herald

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