Pathways to success often depend on access to experiences and opportunities. Unfortunately, across Canada, many children all too often lack the resources or access to empowering extracurricular activities, such as sports or organized recreation.
Knowing the positive impact that sport can have on a child’s life, Golf Canada’s junior programming through First Tee strives to break down barriers to accessing the game of golf. First Tee – Canada provides inclusive youth development activities to participants as young as five years old, using golf as a vehicle to support the personal growth and confidence of children.
First Tee – Canada programming is offered at golf courses, schools, and community centres in regions across the country with specifically designed curriculum and instructor training for each of these impactful learning environments.
On traditional Musqueam First Nation territory alongside the Fraser River lies The Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy. This tree-lined golf course and driving range [in/near Vancouver, B.C.] is home to First Tee – British Columbia.
The delivery of First Tee – BC programming at Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy began in the fall of 2021 and despite the program’s infancy, there has been an outpouring of positive feedback from the community.
“These kids have been using golf as an outlet, (and) feel a sense of inclusion and safety at the golf course,” says Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy General Manager Kumi Kimura. “They never knew how much fun golf was and that it [can] help as a healthy escape from [a sometimes] not so healthy world.”
Registration for 12 participant spots fills up quickly. The hour-long sessions are grouped by age, varying from seven to 12, and coached by PGA of Canada professional Kelvin Ko and First-Tee Certified Coach Jody Kinsman. Along with learning the fundamental skills of golf, children experience the opportunity to develop or further reinforce many of the life skills and values learned through sport.
Kimura shared a personal story of the opportunity First Tee – BC presented to siblings participating in the program—children who were dealing with familial troubles at home and seeking a positive outlet.
“(To) get out of the house, and still be together as siblings, they found refuge here. They fell for the game… I knew this was not something the kids could afford, however, through First Tee activities, we are beginning to support their development and provide for them as a community.”
For some children, sport can the mean the world; a positive escape where individuals learn about themselves, build confidence, understand commitment, and develop healthy habits—all values worth carrying for life. Together with the support and generosity of donors, First Tee – BC and Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy have introduced the sport of golf to children who might not have otherwise experienced the game.
Golf has often battled a perception that the game is exclusive to the affluent. By creating “hubs” consisting of schools, community centres, and accessible golf courses within a small radius, First Tee – Canada is working to debunk that perception, one community at a time. And with a strong philanthropic community of donors supporting First Tee – Canada, many program locations provide equipment and offer registration at no cost.
In striving to be a world leader in the sport, Golf Canada is committed to changing the face of golf to better reflect the multicultural strength of the Canadian population. First Tee – Canada is providing opportunities, relationships, and experiences for children that are laying the foundation for a more diverse game.
“I believe these are stories that need to be told,” says Kimura. “Golf is no longer an elitist game, but a game for all people, in the good time and the bad.”
The relationship that First Tee – BC has created with the Musqueam community, and the positive impact on participants is a testament to the power of sport, and better yet, the future legacy of First Tee – Canada.
The program’s impact on youth is reflective of the facility’s impact in its community. The name Musqueam relates back to the flowering plant, məθkʷəy̓, which grows in the Fraser River estuary. Like flowers, children grow and develop in different ways, in a healthy, safe, enriching environment.
By virtue of the land, the collaborative efforts of First Tee – BC, Musqueam Golf and Learning Academy, and the game of golf, for every flower that blooms this summer, a child will too.