In the fall, Tyler ISD students will get to enjoy a little tee time after school and perhaps even during PE.

That’s the plan as a groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday for The First Tee of Greater Tyler Learning Facility at Woldert Park.

Stacia Aylor, First Tee of Greater Tyler executive director, said she expects the facility to be completed in time for the organization to hold the Life Skills classes in the fall. First up will be a chipping green and a putting green, along with a driving/practice range. Plastic balls will be used at the driving range during Phase 1. Phase 2 of the facility, expected to be complete in 2020, will include netting around the driving/practice range, lighting for night activities and classroom facilities. With the addition of the netting, participants will be able to hit real golf balls.

In collaboration with the city of Tyler, The First Tee of Greater Tyler is constructing the learning facility on the corner of West 32nd Street and North Broadway Avenue as part of the Woldert Park system.

“Having a learning facility in north Tyler is a dream come true for the founding board members of the Greater Tyler chapter — Walter Wilhelmi, Michael Harrison and Nelson Clyde,” Christian Sarran, program director, said.

Sarran added the facility will be used to conduct Life Skills Experience Classes.

The First Tee centers on Nine Core Values: Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgment. Also, it places emphasis on Nine Healthy Habits: Energy, Play, Safety, Vision, Mind, Family, Friends, School and Community.

What started as a concept to make golf more accessible to young people turned into an opportunity to help young people develop core values and learn life skills that are inherent in the game of golf, Harrison said.

Two students of the First Tee — Kyambria Acy, 13, and Kaitlyn Cabaniss, 17 — were on hand to watch Randy Stuart, president of the board of directors, and Sarran shovel the dirt.

“The First Tee is great,” said Acy, who will be an eighth-grader at Boulter Middle School in the fall. “I have enjoyed learning the great game of golf. It is fun and relaxing and you get to make friends.”

Acy has been involved in the program for seven years.

Cabaniss, who has been in the First Tee for six years, said it was exciting to see the beginning of the new project.

“The First Tee not only gives kids the opportunity to learn life skills, but also the chance to excel in the game of golf,” said Cabaniss, who will be a senior at Grace Community School. “Golf is challenging and it is fun to play.”

Sarran also thanked the Rainwater Foundation, the partnership with the Tyler Independent School District and volunteers.

The First Tee’s main programs over the last few years have been centered at Oak Hurst Golf Course in Bullard. With both locations available, they will now be able to provide youth development services to all communities of the Greater Tyler area.

With the Oak Hurst facility, the First Tee has reached out to students in Bullard, Jacksonville and Palestine areas, Aylor said.

Now, with the Woldert Park facility, students from Griffin, Caldwell and Bonner elementary schools may participate, Aylor said. She added Sarran is talking with other schools about becoming involved and perhaps using the physical education period to participate in the First Tee. The program is for young people ages 7 to 18.

The mission statement of The First Tee of Greater Tyler is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.

Aylor added school districts involved in the program include Tyler, Bullard, Whitehouse, Lindale, Palestine and the Promise Academy.

Sarran, who has been program director since the local chapter’s inception in 2011, said the First Tee is always in need of volunteers and coaches. He said it is not necessary to be a golfer to volunteer.

“If you enjoy helping children, this is perfect for you,” Sarran said.



Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.

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