As a promising young golfer in Baltimore, Matt Bassler might have dreamed about traveling the world playing the game. As Bassler got older, his goal was simply to stay involved with what had become the family business.
The son of longtime local club pro Billy Bassler, who spent 40 years at Rolling Road Golf Club in Catonsville before retiring in 2015, Matt Bassler was looking for a job after graduating in 2008 from then-Loyola College, where he was the captain of the golf team.
The First Tee, an organization that brings golf to disadvantaged children and others without access to the game, had come to Baltimore two years before. Bassler would become its first full-time employee and would eventually become its program director.
Though Bassler had not heard of the First Tee before being hired, or played much at Clifton Park Golf Course, where the local chapter was based, he took the job. It was a way to remain close not only to the game, but also to his family.
“I wanted to stay in golf, and it kept me local,” Bassler recalled Friday. “I just thought it was a perfect fit and I haven't left.”
Bassler is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. On Monday, the First Tee of Greater Baltimore will introduce Bassler as its executive director. Bassler takes over for Scooter Clark, who returned to Florida after just nine months on the job to work for the PGA Tour.
“Over the past nine years, we’ve watched Matt Bassler’s leadership in the lives of our youths and the community First Tee serves,” Caves Valley director of golf Dennis Satyshur said in a statement. “As the new executive director, we are poised for exciting new growth.”
Bassler has seen participation in the local chapter grow from around 50 children to over 800. Through the First Tee’s caddie academy, Bassler has hopes to grow the membership to over 1,000 and expand the organization’s imprint to Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County and even the Eastern Shore.
“The chapter is a little bit older now — we’re 12 years or so in existence — a lot of our kids that started at 6 or 7 years old are now moving on to college,” Bassler said. “Scooter had a background in collegiate [golf] and the college process, he helped the chapter better understand how we can impact a child and providing some opportunities for them to look at colleges.”
Bassler said Clark’s connection to college golf coaches as well as schools that have a golf management program will also continue with the First Tee of Greater Baltimore.
“Really anything we can do to help a young person think about college, what’s the next step for them, how to apply for scholarships locally, he helped kind of locate some of that,” Bassler said. “I wouldn’t say it was implemented too much, but it was helping the chapter physically and with some individual students grow as a person and education-wise.”
Though he has had opportunities to follow his father and become a teaching pro or run the business operation at a local golf club, Bassler said, “That’s how much I enjoy the interaction I have with the kids. I have learned to enjoy the nonprofit world.
“I’m fascinated and I enjoy the challenges of the nonprofit. I believe strongly in the mission of the First Tee, of growing the game of golf, growing youth development through the game of golf. I have seen hundreds of positive results. It's kept me energized.”