PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The golf season is in full swing, with the Masters last month and the PGA tournament this weekend.
If you're interested in your child trying golf, some programs are making it accessible and affordable for all kids. Some national golf programs with local franchises in our area are spreading the love of the game to kids who otherwise might never have played golf, and they're teaching life lessons along with it.
A school gym becomes a make-shift golf course, and golf simulators help kids envision the course. They are all ways to bring golf to kids who otherwise might never play. TGA Premier Sports and The First Tee both offer programs here in Pittsburgh and around the country to teach kids how to play golf, using the sport to teach values as well.
Rio Hawkins first learned golf when she was a kid in The First Tee program, and now she's a coach.
"I was the at-risk youth that they were trying to target at the time, and I don't know where I would be without the program," Hawkins said. "It gave me a sense of myself. It showed me who I could be and how far I can go."
The First Tee offers golf lessons to kids ages 5 to 18 with after-school programs, in-school programs, even home-school programs, as well as summer camps. They're in every Pittsburgh Public School, and Pittsburgh Police serve as volunteer coaches.
Eighth grader Nasario Mackey just started golf with The First Tee at their program at Pleasant Ridge on the North Side. He says coach Rio inspires him.
"She teaches you, it's not just about power when you swing it. It's about the speed when it comes down. And she is a very good mentor," he said.
Hawkins says they focus on nine core values that tie into the game of golf, like honesty.
"Golf is the only sport that you kinda don't have a referee. You're your own referee. You're calling your own penalties on yourself. Technically, you're the boss, so honesty is big in golf," she said.
The TGA Premier Sports program stands for Teach, Grow, Achieve. It's also about using sports to teach life lessons.
"We talk about all those wonderful skills you need in life - perseverance, sportsmanship, integrity and then the golf skills are kind of thrown in along with that," TGA Pittsburgh owner, Michele Psilos, said.
Along the way, the kids learn chipping, putting, and golf terminology. TGA also offers after-school programs at places like the gym and playground at Streams Elementary in Upper Saint Clair, and summer camps on local golf courses.
Both TGA and The First Tee will provide golf clubs and scholarships so that every child has a chance to play.
"Generally, if you don't have anybody that plays in your family, you're not exposed to the sport, so it's a great way to do that," Psilos said.
"I like that it's always interactive, and it's always fun," student Emily Menke, at Streams Elementary, said.
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