Sometimes, two is better than one. But when it comes to the First Tee® of Metro Atlanta, it’s clear that one unified organization can provide a level of benefits for young golfers that far exceed what two separate organizations were able to.
On July 1, The First Tee of Atlanta and the First Tee of East Lake merged operations to form The First Tee of Metro Atlanta. By consolidating into one organization, they were able to efficiently and effectively enhance their reach across the Metro Atlanta area through an expansion of programming, education and experiences.
Marvin Hightower, the executive director of the First Tee of Metro Atlanta, said the two organizations always worked well together, but the merger has enabled them to establish their local brand and clarify their service offerings.
As one example, the First Tee of East Lake served the immediate area around the East Lake community, while the First Tee of Atlanta provided service for the remainder of the metro area. Under this setup, there were some students who might have lived closer to East Lake but were only eligible to participate with the First Tee of Atlanta.
The merger has brought needed clarity and certainty to challenges like that, enabling students to engage with a central organization with multiple sites that offer a diverse slate of programming.
“Now that we’re consolidated, we’re in a position where we can be more efficient with how we serve and who we serve,” said Hightower.
The First Tee of Metro Atlanta now serves eight counties (Clayton, Cobb, Dekalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry), and there are plans to bring on additional counties in the coming years. This consolidated organization will serve approximately 145,000 participants, through in-school and out-of-school programming, across its Life Skills Experience Program, the after-school DRIVE (Develops Rewarding, Inspiring Values for Everyone) program and the National Schools Program.
The two organizations convened an advisory board that could help guide and manage the merger process, helping to provide a seamless transition.
Like its two predecessors, the First Tee of Metro Atlanta is a charitable beneficiary of the TOUR Championship, the season finale of the PGA TOUR and FedEx Cup. Following the 2018 TOUR Championship, tournament officials announced more than $3 million was donated from the 2018 event – a tournament record – with more than $30 million invested in local nonprofits since the event was first staged at East Lake Golf Club in 1998.
Hightower said students will be treated to a fully immersive experience during this week’s TOUR Championship.
“For many of them, it’s going to be unlike anything they have ever experienced in their lives,” said Hightower. “Before the merger, we had the chance to participate with different activities during tournament week, but this year is going to be bigger than what I’ve seen in my time with the organization.”
Students in the First Tee program are going to serve as standard bearers for the PGA TOUR players during the tournament, as well as have the opportunity to attend various events, including the Taste of the TOUR fundraiser, the Tee It Up Atlanta kickoff party at the College Football Hall of Fame and a behind-the-scenes tour of the tournament.
In addition to the life skills that students gain through the First Tee, the ability to experience one of the most premier tournaments on the PGA TOUR schedule provides a benefit that is unique to Atlanta.
“Without fail, I have some parents come up to me and say ‘thank you for this opportunity’ because this is such a special and unique experience for the students,” said Hightower. “I take the most satisfaction out of that, knowing that we have impacted these young people and left an imprint on them that will last for the rest of their lives and help them become the best they can be.”