FIRST TEE of Howard County, a program designed to introduce youths to the game of golf, uses the sport as a metaphor for life. Youngsters are taught respect, ways to deal with anger and how to set goals.
Based at Fairway Hills Golf Course, the program has openings for this year's three remaining sessions.
"The program is important because of the things golf teaches you," said west Columbian Don Van Deusen, executive director of First Tee. "Besides learning the game, you have the opportunity to display the proper behaviors that are accepted on the golf course or in life generally."
First Tee's mission is to provide youngsters, ages 8 to 18, with low-cost golf instruction and acquaint them with the etiquette required to play. Richard Talkin and C. Vernon Gray are co-chairmen of the organization's board of directors.
"Our emphasis is on reaching youngsters who otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to play golf, whether the reason is financial, or not having a family member with a background in golf," Van Deusen said.
Golf instructors Mike Carroll and Mark Ellicott teach the youngsters how to swing, putt, pitch and chip. As students progress through the program's three levels - Par, Birdie and Eagle - they spend time in a classroom learning life skills from instructors Dave Appleby, George Adams and Brian Van Deusen.
The instruction includes lessons that will help students maneuver successfully through life as well as navigate a golf course.
"Golf is one of the few sports where you keep your own score, where you can call a penalty on yourself," Don Van Deusen said. "It's a game where you have quick emotional changes from making a nice putt on one hole, and on the next hole you hit a shot out of bounds. With the students, it's an opportunity to face these challenges. When things go well, how do you behave? When they don't go well, how do you handle it?"
The Columbia Association has an agreement with First Tee Howard County that allows the organization to teach golf, at no charge to the organization, at Fairway Hills. Efforts are under way to raise the funds necessary to build a classroom at the facility to house the program.
Nearly 300 youngsters have participated in the program since it began at Fairway Hills last year. Don Van Deusen credits Fairway Hills' golf professional, Joan Lovelace, and the Columbia Association's director of operations, sports and fitness, Bob Bellamy, for their help in making the program a success.
"There are so many parallels between golf and real life," Bellamy said in a statement. "The educational segment stresses sportsmanship and integrity."
First Tee has openings in the Par level for programs that begin Friday and Sunday. The program is free, although there is a $10 equipment fee that can be waived, based on need.
The Columbia Homeschool Community, an organization that provides homeschooling enrichment, socialization and support, will meet at the central library Sept. 9.
The topic, "Homeschooling 101," will offer basic information to parents on how to get started and where to find a curriculum. The organization, founded in 1999, has more than 200 participants. The meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m.
Back-to-school nights offer parents an opportunity to meet the faculty and staff at their child's school and get the information necessary to help start the school year on the right foot.
Back-to-School nights in west Columbia schools are as follows:
Atholton High School, 7 p.m. Sept. 19; Bryant Woods Elementary School, 6:30 p.m. Monday; Clarksville Middle School, 7 tonight for sixth grade only, and 7 p.m. Sept. 18 for grades seven and eight; Clemens Crossing Elementary, 7:30 p.m. tomorrow for kindergarten and grades one and two; Harper's Choice Middle School, 7 p.m. Sept. 18; Longfellow Elementary School, 7 p.m. Sept. 17 for grades three, four and five, and 7 p.m. Sept. 18 for prekindergarten through second grade; Pointers Run Elementary School, 7 p.m. Sept. 12 for the Recc program for pre-schoolers, kindergarten, first and second grades, and 7 p.m. Sept. 17 for grades three, four and five; Running Brook Elementary School, 6:30 p.m. Monday; Wilde Lake Middle School, 7 p.m. Sept. 18; and Wilde Lake High School, 7 p.m. Sept. 19.