The First Tee of Philadelphia is expanding its reach to include the entire eight-county metropolitan area, ready to introduce young people to golf and the core values that the game represents.
But John MacDonald, the energetic executive director of what now is called the First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, doesn't mind the added responsibilities.
"We've been working hard for all the years we've been in business," said MacDonald, who established the Philadelphia chapter in 2003. "We just wound up to be the natural choice to consider starting another broader footprint. We're happy about where we are right now, and our job is to try to get programming going in all the counties."
The incorporation of the counties - Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester - into one chapter was approved last week by First Tee headquarters in St. Augustine, Fla.
MacDonald said that not all counties had First Tee programs in the past. The reason for having one chapter, he said, was to eliminate the confusion with multiple chapters, which also makes it easier for organizations like the Golf Association of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Section PGA and individual volunteers to assist.
MacDonald, the former golf coach at Temple, said the chapter currently serves more than 5,800 youths ranging from ages 6 to 18 in its school, after-school, and summer programs. He hopes to see that number double by 2015.
For now, MacDonald is working on gaining sites in all counties to set up centers, preferably with golf facilities. He said he is identifying representatives in each county to assist in fund-raising efforts.
He said golf is linked to educational themes such as "The Science of Golf," a program that involves science principles related to the game.
"Education is very important in my mind," MacDonald said. "The more we can figure out how to get kids engaged from an educational standpoint and put greater emphasis on how they perform in the classroom as well as how they're doing when they're at our site and on the golf course, I think they'll be better off and we'll be better off."
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