First Tee: Building Confidence Through the Game of Golf

Posted April 27, 2023

As the executive director of First Tee in Manhattan, Kansas, I know from experience how important and rewarding it can be to present life skills to kids at a young age. First Tee is a youth development organization that teaches the game of golf to kids and teens. During our lessons, we also make sure to incorporate tools that can help kids be successful in life and in their future careers.

The First Tee program has 150 chapters across the United States. In addition to Manhattan, there are chapters in Wichita, Salina, Topeka and Kansas City. Participants play with their peers, and no matter what stage they are in their golf game, everyone is welcome.

As most of us know, golf is a sport that can have a lot of ups and downs! Not getting the results you want or having off days can definitely impact your outlook on life. During our lessons, we really focus on reacting with healthy habits to less-than-ideal situations, and we also provide a lot of practical guidance for life off the golf course. These teachable moments golf presents to kids are definitely applicable in everyday life and in their future careers.  

The Ace Program

Our Ace program is a prime example of how we work in those teachable moments. First Tee is available to young people who are five to 18 years old, but Ace is geared toward teenagers.

Players have four projects to complete in the Ace program. For the first project, we collect data on their golf skills and track statistics as they play. They analyze this information to see where they can improve their game. In addition to evaluating their golf skills, this task also helps them learn patience, determination and other character traits that are applicable to everyday life.

The second project helps them plan for career options. They take different tests to learn more about what their interests are and what job paths make sense for their strengths. Then they interview people in the field to see what life would really be like as a technician, teacher or doctor. We also help the players create cover letters and résumés.

The next project revolves around giving back to the community. What we do at First Tee is a lot more than just golf. We really stress the importance of giving back and seeing the bigger picture in things. For this third Ace project, they do 48 hours of volunteer work in their community.

The players research post-secondary options for the fourth project. They explore trade schools or colleges that could be a viable option for them after high school. We encourage them to take it a step further and contact admissions offices, look for scholarship opportunities and see what campus life would be like. If they want to try to play a sport after high school, we have them dive into researching what that process and experience would be like, too.  

Reflections From a Participant

I was able to catch up with one of our players, Cody Schurle, to see what his thoughts were on his experience. He started with First Tee when he was five years old and recently completed our Ace program.

When I asked him how the Ace program assisted him as far as making decisions for after high school, Cody shared that it helped him feel more prepared.

“I did mock job interviews, wrote a résumé and called colleges to ask about specific programs they offer,” Schurle said. “Taking these steps really helped me narrow down what I want to do after high school and feel more confident in my decisions.”

I also asked him what kind of advice he’d have for someone who is unsure about what to do after high school.

“My advice for them would be to keep an open mind as you’re sorting through your options,” Schurle said. “Be sure to take advantage of the resources available to you, like First Tee and the Ace program, to help figure out what’s best for you and your future career.”

Today, Cody is finishing his senior year of high school and is playing on the local homeschool golf team. He spends a lot of time working on his family farm and will attend Kansas State University in the fall.

Join Us!

We think that the skills you learn playing golf really help develop integrity, respect, perseverance and other important qualities that are so valuable to young people as they grow up and enter the workforce. First Tee has a fun and inclusive environment where kids can feel comfortable learning and aren’t afraid to fail. We don’t care how good you are at golf, we don’t care if you mess up — we just hope you learn from it and have fun!

In 2022 we had more than 600 participants in our First Tee programs in Manhattan, and we look forward to another exciting and memorable year teaching kids, teens and young adults the game of golf and preparing them for the game of life. If you’re interested in having your kids participate in a First Tee program in Kansas or anywhere in the United States, I recommend visiting

Aaron Wall is the executive director of First Tee – Manhattan. Aaron earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and Health from Emporia State and master’s degree in sports management from Western Kentucky.

After 13 years with First Tee – Manhattan, Aaron has held several positions with the local chapter. From 2011-2016, Aaron taught Elementary Physical Education in USD 475 Geary County Schools and coached for First Tee during the summer. He spent three years as an assistant coach and three years as the assistant program director. In 2017, Aaron became the executive director and has been in that role ever since. Under his leadership, First Tee – Manhattan has implemented successful outreach programs with many local youth-serving organizations and has seen a record number of participants at Colbert Hills.