First Tee of Connecticut Executive Director Mark Moriarty spoke with MetroHartford Alliance (MHA) Content Manager Nan Price about the organization’s youth development efforts and the many ways it partners with local organizations to create new opportunities in the Hartford Region.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background about First Tee of Connecticut and how it’s evolved over the years.
MARK MORIARTY: First Tee is an international organization celebrating its 25th anniversary. First Tee of Connecticut was one of the earliest chapters. We started in 1999 at Goodwin Park, which is why we’re so excited to announce our new partnership with the Goodwin Park Golf Course—we’ll be responsible for all golf operations at the park. We’re incredibly excited about having a new and more immersive presence at Goodwin Park.
In terms of what do we do, while we focus on offering junior golf, we really consider ourselves a youth development organization. We like to say that golf is our classroom.
We emphasize nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. The idea is to empower youth with skills that will benefit them on the golf course but then, more importantly, in the classroom and into their work life as adults. They’re learning interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, and problem solving—which are valuable whether you work for First Tee or the MHA.
NAN: That’s a great segue into your collaboration with the MHA. Why is that important for your organization?
MARK: There are so many opportunities, especially with HYPE (Hartford Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs), where we run an event together. There’s lots of synergy with young people learning the game of golf and seeing that immediate next generation of kids who we serve.
Being an MHA investor gives us exposure in the city and lends credibility to our organization. It gives us access to key players and other local leaders, as well as events like the upcoming Conversation with Mayor Luke Bronin event at Dunkin’ Donuts stadium.
There’s some excitement with being a part of a network where you can interact with all of the people who have an opportunity to become involved in improving our region. The MHA offers that platform, which I think is really important.
NAN: What other local organizations in the region do you collaborate with?
MARK: Our collaborations in the Hartford Region fall into two buckets. The first involves how we collaborate with young people, which is through youth service agencies like a Boys & Girls Club or a YMCA that has a nucleus of young people. We feel like we can be a partner by providing a new and different experience for their kids to try the game of golf.
The second way we collaborate is through school programs. We are excited that 165 elementary schools in the state are introducing First Tee as part of their physical education classes. So, we’re supporting the learning that happens in a school setting and getting some exposure. We’re putting thousands of kids in front of the game of golf in a very organic way.
Hartford Public Schools has been a partner of ours for a long time. The Travelers Championship funded that school-based program nearly 20 years ago. We’re now in a position where they’re coming back to us for help on refreshing the program.
We’ve committed some dollars to the equipment and having this new opportunity at Goodwin Park—totally unrelated—has gotten them very enthusiastic about bringing kinds to Goodwin Park for a real golf experience. Those two partnerships have lined up nicely and we’re hoping that will make an impact on Hartford’s schools getting involved with our programming and with the game of golf.
NAN: How can the community support you?
MARK: We’re constantly looking for volunteer support. People get nervous about the idea of being a volunteer coach, but I assure you that you don’t have to be an expert golfer. You just have to be a regular and consistent role model for the kids.
And, if you’re looking to be involved in supporting us in a financial way, we annually run free golf events. Our next event at TCP River Highlands, home of the Travelers Championship, will take place Tuesday, October 11. We’re always looking for corporate supporters and individual players to come out and support us and some of our kids in person and have an experience that tells them all about First Tee of Connecticut.