Colbert Hills Golf Course
Academy uses golf to teach life skills
By Keener A. Tippin II
April 13, 1997, goes down in history as monumental in unifying what many consider a most divisive sport. That date marked a new era in the world of professional golf -- the Tiger Woods era.
On the heels of claiming the fabled green jacket of the Augusta National Golf Course and the Masters Tournament, Woods paid tribute to those who paved the way for his victory -- Lee Elder, Charlie Sifford and Teddy Rhodes.
"If not for them I might not have been here," Woods would later comment.
Prior to his success on the PGA TOUR, golf was viewed by many as a game for the affluent and well-educated white population. Woods is not only changing the face of the game but many attitudes as well. In the same manner as Elder, Sifford and Rhodes before him, Woods is paving the way for others to follow him into the sport. In response to the burgeoning interest in the sport among youth -- due largely to Woods' charismatic appeal -- Kansas State University's Colbert Hills Golf Course hopes to attract and boost participation of those traditionally shut out of the sport.
Although the game has begun to cross both cultural and socioeconomic barriers, current Senior PGA TOUR pro and K-State alumnus Jim Colbert, believes for the sport's continued growth more must be done to reach out to underrepresented populations. Both he and the First Tee Program envision that this 315-acre, 18-hole championship golf course, which opened in the spring of 2000, will be one where aspiring young golfers -- in particular minorities -- can get involved with golf and hone their skills.
What began as the Colbert Hills Skills Based Youth Golf Academy, with the vision of bringing in about 125 youth between the ages of 10 to 17 from across the nation each summer for two- and four-week sessions, comprised of participants from groups "traditionally underrepresented," has evolved into the Earl Woods National Youth Golf Academy.
The Earl Woods National Youth Golf Academy is named in honor of the 1953 graduate of K-State, for his life accomplishments. Earl Woods is the father of PGA golfer Tiger Woods.
In addition to the naming of the golf academy, the academy was given the distinction of hosting the inaugural First Tee National Academy July 22-29, 2000.
K-State and Colbert Hills Golf Course, which includes an 18-hole championship course, a nine-hole par-three teaching course, practice area and a learning center, with an emphasis on teaching, hosted this first-of-its-kind event which brought 120 youngsters, ranging in ages 14 to 16, from more than 93 local First Tee chapters around the United States to Manhattan for a week-long academy featuring golf clinics, leadership development workshops, life skills workshops, career exploration, meetings with sports figures representing the values of golf, and an opportunity to develop lasting friendships with youth from around the nation.
Aside from the on-going academic component and golf instruction, role models are important in cultivating an interest in the game. Just as Sifford, Rhodes and Elder played important roles in Woods' development, so too will the participants in the development of the youth in their home chapters. Each youngster is expected to become a mentor when they return to their home chapter.
The National First Tee Academy is one of three separate components under the umbrella of the Earl Woods National Golf Academy. Other components include the K-State Upward Bound First Tee Academy and the local First Tee Academy.
Local participants have been identified and recruited through a network of public schools, programs such as K-State's Upward Bound -- a federally funded program aimed at providing academic assistance to high school and college students who will be, or are, of the first generation in their family to attend college, or students who are in low-income situations -- and PGA TOUR charity programs.
A major goal of the academy is not only to get minority youth to play golf, but to get them to pursue post-secondary education and make them "better people." Golf may not be life, but there are certain life and leadership skills that can be learned through the game.
Nine core values have been established for the academy -- integrity, confidence, responsibility, trust, respect, courtesy, equity, accountability and the 'edge' to compete in life and golf. Each of the nine holes at the Colbert Hills teaching course will have a core value assigned to it and a particular curriculum that will go along with it. In addition, student leaders from the K-State leadership studies program serve as curriculum mentors for the program. The Woods Academy will also introduce young people who haven't had an opportunity to be involved with the sport to career development opportunities in the golf field such as turf or club management.
Participants will also be introduced to the First Tee Life Skills Curriculum, leadership development around golf life core values, and career exploration. Golf clinics will include presentations by LPGA, PGA TOUR and local PGA/LPGA professionals. Participants will also take part in recreational activities, as well as a golf tournament during the last two days of the academy program. Colbert will participate in conducting clinics during the Earl Woods National Youth Golf Academy. In addition, Earl Woods will share experiences he and Tiger have had with academy participants.
First Tee participants will be housed in campus residence halls used by K-State students during regular school sessions.