Our Story

Since 1997, we’ve been building experiences that build character to empower kids through a lifetime of new challenges and continuous personal growth. During that time, we’ve experienced some of our own personal growth and development as an organization, ensuring we show up stronger for future generations of kids. We invite you to take a journey with us through the last 25 years of our growth story.

25 Years of Impact

November 1997

First Tee is born. Under the leadership of PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR, LPGA, Augusta National, the PGA of America and the USGA came together to launch a program that would make golf more accessible to all children. We officially kicked off with an announcement in Central Park with Honorary Chair President George H.W. Bush.


February 1999

We soon recognized the opportunity that our programs can positively impact young people in all aspects of life.  Our life skills curriculum launched with a focus on character development and personal growth through golf.

March 1999

We welcome our first chapter, First Tee – Valparaiso, now part of First Tee – Indiana. Today, the chapter is one of more than 150 chapters in our network and reaches more than 1,000 youth at area golf courses and 12,000 students at elementary schools.

First Tee participants and coach walking on a golf course.

April 2000

Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. is announced as our National Director, providing strategic direction and executive oversight for all activities until his retirement as CEO in December 2017.

February 2003

Our coaches’ ability to develop impactful relationships with our participants is the backbone of our program. But this doesn’t happen by chance. In 2003, we began formally training our coaches through our newly launched Coach Program, a training system built on research-proven methods of positive youth development, providing coaches with the tools to make kids feel safe, included and empowered. Today, we have more than 4,147 trained coaches mentoring the next generation of game changers.

November 2003

Inspired by a speech made by 16-year-old Steven Outlaw. Dr. William Crouch, then-president of Georgetown College, surprised the audience by spontaneously offering Outlaw a scholarship to his school, launching First Tee Scholars Program.

May 2004

In an effort to reach kids where they are, we begin offering the First Tee School Program to bring golf and our character building programs to students in elementary schools across the country.

Participant doing a golf activity in a gym.

September 2004

For the first time, our teens participants are mentored by PGA TOUR Champions players and leaders from the business world during the PURE Insurance Championship. This is the first of many national opportunities now available to our participants who are ready to take their First Tee experience to the next level.

November 2007

In 10 years, we’ve grown our network to 200 chapters and more than 2,000 schools across 48 states and four international locations.

First Tee participants bumping elbows.

February 2011

President George W. Bush becomes our Honorary Chair succeeding his father, President George H. W. Bush, who held the role from 1997-2011.

Watch the Golf Channel Interview

December 2012

With determination, grit and hard work, Scott Langley becomes our first alumnus to earn a PGA TOUR card. Since Langley, Cameron Champ and Austin Smotherman have also gone on to earn their PGA TOUR card, along with many others who are playing on competitive tours around the country and the world.

September 2013

Our  Community Program launches, bringing our character building program to even more youth through programs  delivered at youth-serving organizations.

Participant playing a golf game in a gym.

November 2015

Third-party research confirms our coaches and curriculum are empowering kids to become a better version of themselves.

First Tee participant and coach high-fiving.

January 2016

With the launch of a new Alumni Network, we begin bringing together former participants so that they can re-connect with old friends, network, engage in opportunities to give back to the community and build their careers.

November 2017

Supported by the Campaign for 10 Million Young People, we experienced significant growth as we reached our 20th anniversary.

First Tee participants reading.

November 2018

Greg McLaughlin is named as CEO of First Tee. He was most recently with  PGA TOUR Champions and before that, helped build Tiger Woods Foundation for 14 years.

June 2020

A relaunch of the First Tee College Scholarship Program includes enhancements such as ongoing mentoring and professional development workshops in addition to financial assistance.  The inaugural class of nine includes aspiring doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs, some of whom are attending Harvard, Yale and Duke University.

2021 First Tee Scholar Class.

September 2020

We are showing up stronger after 23 years. Grounded in research and insights from stakeholders, we evolved our brand as an updated reflection of who we are and our promise to help empower kids to build their strength of character.

First Tee logo.

November 2021

Charles R. Schwab re-commits his support through a new challenge grant program for First Tee Chapters. This transformational program will provide Chapters the opportunity to significantly grow and deepen their impact over the next several years.


The world’s changed a lot in the last 25 years. Our kids are growing in new environments that are demanding more from them and, therefore, more from us. From refreshing our curriculum to leveraging new technology, we’ve been reinvesting in key elements of our organization, making sure we’re empowering and connecting with youth in the way that works for them so that we continue to deliver impactful programs for the next 25 years and beyond.


First Tee participant celebrating.

25 Years of Building Game Changers

For over 25 years, we’ve used golf to teach lessons about life. We’ve spun the unexpected challenges on the fairway to coach kids about adversity in the everyday. It’s not just a game, its game-changing. As we celebrate this milestone anniversary, we recognize that every one of us plays a role in this – partners, donors, coaches, volunteers and staff. And we collectively commit as an organization to spending the next 25 years and beyond opening the door to even more kids through First Tee.