AIKEN, SC (02/10/2018) This editorial appeared in the Augusta Chronicle Feb. 8, 2018. It is posted here with permission.
There aren't too many matches in sports where everybody wins.
Putting the University of South Carolina-Aiken and the First Tee of Aiken together on a shared nine-hole practice course, which they're currently raising funds for, is both inspired and inspiring.
The USC-Aiken course will give the First Tee program, currently housed at Houndslake Country Club in Aiken, more room to expose youths - particularly low-income and minority youths who may not otherwise be exposed to golf - to the fun and the life lessons of the game.
Plus it could enable USC-Aiken to add a women's golf program - and give the men somewhere else to putt other than the hallways of the Convocation Center.
The $3.17 million fundraising drive is about a third complete, though $2 million will be enough for the course itself; the added funds will go toward a facility and such.
We cannot endorse the nonprofit First Tee program highly enough - for its outreach to disadvantaged and historically disregarded pools of potential players, and for the values it instills in kids.
First Tee of Aiken, as other First Tees in Augusta and around the nation, imparts "quality life skills and golf instruction," and provides enrollees the "free use of golf equipment, supervised practice privileges, tournament opportunities and more." No student is turned away due to inability to pay.
Best of all, the First Tee philosophy and program are built around nine core values that the game of golf itself teaches: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.
First Tee also emphasizes nine benefits of proper play in three categories: physical (nutrition for energy, physicality and safety); emotional (big-picture vision, exercising one's mind, strengthening families through shared activities); and social (healthy friendships, success in school and being part of the community).
It's a lot more than even educational and edifying entertainment. It's about how to have a good life and be a good person. That's why the fundraising campaign is called "More Than a Game."
And that's priceless.