Wednesday, April 22, 2015

St. Augustine Fl - The First Tee, The Renaissance Hotel and Caddy Shack

     Hi again all.  After a productive break, I am ready to hit the trail again - picking back up at Cape Fear NC and heading as far northward as we can before fall comes.  It looks to be an eight month leg, so I have been resting and attending to some personal affairs.  I am looking forward to this run - hopefully we will make it well up the coast before the real hot weather starts.  

     I am going to return to writing the meditations regularly - if you don't get them you can subscribe By Clicking Here, then adding your email into the subscribe box on the left of the page.  My hope is to pick up pace a good bit from our first year - at the current pace I will be 86 years old when we complete the first lap around the edge of the United States.

     But before we start back off in North Carolina, there a couple of deserving aspects of the World Golf Village that I would like to touch on.  

     If golf is an interest of yours, this community is a great place to visit.  We spent a day here at the World Golf Hall of Fame last month; today we are returning to take a look at one of the most productive charitable foundations in the world.  

     Just across the lake that lies in front of the Hall of Fame is the world headquarters for The First Tee..

     The First Tee was founded in 1997 by the PGA, the LPGA, the USGA, the PGA Tour and The Masters, with corporate help from Shell Oil..  In the 18 years has had a direct impact in the lives of over 9 million young people.

     A number of charitable foundations that I visit with the hopes of getting a story I don't end up writing about - for a number of reasons. If I don't think the group is doing what they purport to do, I let it go, regardless of how tempting the story is.  But this group is one that not only does what they say, I feel they successfully go well beyond what they promise to do.

     What started as an effort to expose more young people to the game of golf has matured into a global forum that teaches young people the basic values that will lead them to well adjusted adulthood.  This particular office is the home office, which helps coordinate this effort by giving guidance and direction to some 180 independent First Tee chapters worldwide.  

   As we continue our journey around the edge of America we will try to visit some of the various chapters and meet some of the individual folks that make this organization thrive.  But today I would like to focus on the core values of this organization as a whole. Suffice it to say that there have been many awesome folks involved with shaping this organization into the mentoring body that it represents today, and a bit more on the history can be found On Their Website.  

     Helping us is senior director Jane Fader and manager of training support Rachel Maruno.

Jane Fader and Rachel Maruno

     This foundation rests on helping individuals realize their potential through guidance in the nine core values that they see as inherent in the sport of golf.  These values are Honesty, Integrity, Sportsmanship, Respect, Confidence, Responsibility, Perseverance, Courtesy and Judgment, ideals that any of us who value civilized society can benefit from.  Here is how The First Tee grounds these basic values in the game of golf.

Honesty:  The quality or state of being truthful; not deceptive.  Golf is unique in that players regularly call penalties on themselves and report their own score.

Integrity:  Strict adherence to a standard of value or conduct; personal honesty and independence.  Golf is a game of etiquette and composure.  Players are responsible for their actions and personal conduct on the golf course even at times when others may not be looking.

Sportsmanship:  Observing the rules of play and winning or losing with grace.  Players must know and abide by the rules of golf and be able to conduct themselves in a kind and respectful manner towards others even in a competitive game.

Respect:  to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.  

In golf it is important to show respect for oneself, playing partners, fellow competitors, the golf course, and for the honor and traditions of the game.

Confidence:  reliance or trust. A feeling of self-assurance. 

 Confidence plays a key role in the level of play that one achieves.  Players can increase confidence in their abilities by being positive and focusing on something they are doing well regardless of the outcome.

Responsibility:  Accounting for one’s actions; dependable.

Players are responsible for their actions on the golf course.  It is up to them to keep score, repair divots, rake bunkers, repair ball marks on the green, and keep up with the pace of play.

Perseverance:  To persist in an idea, purpose or task despite obstacles.

To succeed in golf, players must continue through bad breaks and their own mistakes, while learning from past experiences.

Courtesy:  Considerate behavior toward others; a polite remark or gesture.

A round of golf should begin and end with a handshake between fellow competitors. Players also should be still and quiet while others are preparing and performing a shot.

Judgment:  The ability to make a decision or form an opinion; a decision reached after consideration.

Using good judgment is very important in golf. It comes into play when deciding on strategy, club selection, when to play safe and when to take a chance, the type of shot players consider executing, as well as making healthy choices on and off the golf course.

Photo courtesy of The First Tee

     One of the big things that separates The First Tee is that they focus on DOING rather than Telling.  Life lessons stick much better when taught through activity rather than abstract instruction.  Challenging tasks are assigned that help develop new physical skills while as much of the focus is spent on the learning process as on the actual outcomes.  Students are encouraged to make decisions that favor long-term lasting improvement rather than a "quick fix" approach.

      In their annual reports, the organization gives painstaking breakdowns of expenditures and participation.  Cost per participant is just over $100.  37 % of participants are female, and 49 % are races other than Caucasian.  Chapters provide hundreds of college scholarships, and over 50% of participants return to the program year to year.

     And through it all, students are taught to show respect for themselves and others as well as to be good stewards of their equipment and their surroundings.

     But there is a hidden benefit withing this organization that might help society more than the instruction given to the pupils.  That benefit is the instructors themselves.

Photo courtesy of The First Tee

     There is an old saying that the only way to truly master a subject is to teach it.  And the first tee spends much time and effort every year teaching adults how to teach these values to the young men and women they come into contact with.  In fact, they provide a week long training session and on-the-ground support to over 1500 new adult instructors a year.

     Instructors (called "coaches") are taught to teach nine healthy habits, which are divided into physical, emotional and social categories.  Eating habits, exercise and rest habits and personal safety are emphasized in the physical.  In the emotional, they are taught that vision requires one to learn from the past, to value the present and to envision how their talents, characteristics and abilities can leave a positive footprint in everything they do.  Valuing one's family is taught in the emotional arena - sharing meals, establishing roles and responsibilities and clear communications are encouraged.  In the social arena, maintaining healthy relationships, contributing to school and community and caring for the environment are detailed. 

     There are many peripheral programs as well - too many to list here, but among them is one that teaches some of the fundamentals of the physics and math behind the game of golf.
Photo courtesy of The First Tee

     Exposing millions of children and hundreds of thousands of adults to a fun, activity driven learning experience that teaches these values creates a legacy that goes far beyond the instruction on the golf course.  Yes, pupils are tracked and there are solid studies showing much positive long term impact on the children that participate.  But what of the instructors who are really learning the most?  I would submit that the difference in their lives has as much or perhaps even a greater influence in their neighborhoods and communities.
Photo courtesy of The First Tee

     Also at the World Golf Village is the St. John's County Convention Center, which is directly attached to The Renaissance Hotel.
     If you are a golfer and looking for a vacation that can be focused on both golf and family, this is a great place.

     The World Golf Hall of Fame is located right here, with a full 18 hole putting course.  Two full size golf courses are also nearby.  A few miles down the road in Ponte Vedra is the championship course of TPC Sawgrass.  The hotel itself also provides transport to and from the historic district of St. Augustine.

     General Manager and Director of Sales William McBroom was a big help here.

William McBroom

     An avid bicyclist, William started his career in hospitality management in Alaska, then spent 23 years in Charlotte North Carolina.  A year and a half ago he too over management of this site - no small task.

     The hotel hosts in excess of 100,000 guests a year, plus another fifty thousand or so that attend banquets here.

     The architecture is such that every room has a great outside view, and the center of the structure is one big atrium.  A small stream with a waterfall and fountains graces the ground floor, whose sound paired up with the natural sunlight coming in from above creates a soothing environment.

     There are several complimentary game rooms, an exercise facility, spa, hot tub, heated pool - it all adds up to a great spot any time of the year.

     William was kind enough to let me use a room for a night - a great break from the van.  They even have indoor plumbing - quite an improvement over the Rainbow Gathering.

     And one more worthwhile stop here - a restaurant dedicated to those often forgotten workhorse of the golf course, the caddy.

     You may remember a few years (decades?) back there was a popular movie called Caddy Shack.

     One of the stars of that movie, Bill Murray, opened this place with his brothers, and the whole place is a sort of memorial to the movie and to the various caddies who have labored along to help golf's greatest achieve their feats.

     The place is even famous enough that a TV show that builds Harleys did one for the place.

     It comes complete with rake, hedge-trimmers and a pitchfork.

     There is much humor to be seen  seen on the walls at Caddy-Shack -

     Today's "Faces in the Crowd" - a shot of Bill Murray in the movie CaddyShack.

     And one last parting shot - in a major tournament professional golfer Nick Faldo (?) had to seek relief from a crappy lie.

     I hope you enjoy this upcoming run through North Carolina, Virginia and beyond.  If you can contribute a few dollars to help me with food and fuel, Click Here.  (Greatly appreciated at the moment.) You can also EMAIL me or read Today's Meditation, but whatever you do, have an awesome Wednesday !!


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