In 2008, my wife, newborn son, and I moved from Atlanta to Pittsburgh so I could begin my job as the Director of Education with The First Tee of Pittsburgh. I held that position for two weeks before taking over as the Director of Golf, and held that position for a year before becoming the Program Director and eventually the Vice President. During the past 12 years, the program grew from one program location, the Bob, to ten sites in five counties that work with 1,600 to 1,800 kids in our Life Skills curriculum each year. We are in 73 schools, and have partnered with countless youth-serving agencies. As I reflect on what has been accomplished during this time, I often think about the first clinic I coached and the nervous excitement I had. The knowledge that I was now working in a mission-driven organization with a nationally recognized character education curriculum and with a group of people that wanted nothing more than to share in the joy of a kid learning a game for a lifetime was thrilling.
I learned the game from my grandfather. He did not start playing until he was 50 years old, and it became a consummate test of his mental and physical skills. He eventually cut down a club for me to join him. The time spent with him evolved first as his caddy and eventually his playing partner. We would walk and talk bout the game, life, and the opportunities that the game can provide. I then moved to the Chicagoland area where I met my best friend and lifelong golfing partner. We have played US Open courses and have gone to the Masters together. Still, some of my fondest memories come from when I would sleep over at his house and we would hop the fence of the local par three course with two clubs in hand and play until we lost our golf balls or we couldn’t see our feet. Our relationship was forged on a course where we discussed everything from relationships to career options. Today, the game continues to challenge, elate, and befuddle me, but I keep coming back for more.
As I move into my new role as CEO, I am excited to share the experiences that the course, life, and mentors have taught me with the next generation of First Tee kids. The team at FTP will continue to develop opportunities for the kids to grow with the game, challenge themselves, and become Good Golfers and Better People. I want our participants, their families, and the community to know that the program, its coaches, volunteers, and board want what’s best for them on and off the golf course.
Submitted by Coach Eric Amato, President & CEO