January 27, 2017 - The year 2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of First Green. The innovative, environmental and STEM education outreach program which uses golf courses as environmental learning labs started with local, humble beginnings but has since grown nationwide as well as internationally.

After being founded by Bill Meyer and Jeff Gullikson in 1997, and with the eventual inclusion and efforts of Steve Kealy and Executive Director Dr. Karen Armstead in 2005, First Green went through a transformative stage.

Initially, the program oriented its resource materials toward teachers. “Starting in 2005, we developed golf course superintendent field-trip kits and materials,” Karen says. “The program refocused to be more centered with superintendents.”

Proprietary Materials Developed for Golf Course Superintendents

First Green has filed trademarks and created proprietary lesson plans and resources to support superintendents with their own local programs.

The Foundation has also has been a regular attendee at the annual Golf Industry Show, hosted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. First Green seminars have trained dozens of superintendents from around the U.S.

Primary presenters Gullikson, Kealy and Armstead are now assisted by First Green’s Cathy Relyea, Communication Director, and Education Director Lynn McKay.

First Green will, once again, be on hand at GIS. The 2017 show will be held Feb. 4-9 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, where the Foundation will conduct an eight-hour seminar that involves bringing the superintendents on a field trip to a local golf course with local students conducting science experiments. The seminar has received high evaluations from the superintendent and student participants, and the 2017 GIS session will be well-attended.

In addition, First Green has made numerous appearances at various other golf-industry expos, both in the U.S. and Canada. The First Green team is frequently assisted in these educational programs by GCSAA’s regional field representatives as part of the professional development programs for golf course superintendents.

A Bright Future Awaits

Thanks to the efforts of Meyer, Gullikson, Kealy, Armstead, Relyea and McKay - along with hundreds of superintendents, regional and national golf association officials, and school teachers and administrators - during its first 20 years First Green has enabled thousands of students to visit golf courses for hands-on STEM learning field trips.

It received a major boost in international awareness when the USGA spotlighted First Green during 30-second PSAs at all its golf championships broadcast on the FOX Network in 2015 and 2016.

“When the USGA stepped up in 2015 and put First Green in one of the PSAs for the U.S. Open, I knew it was just a matter of time before we were a national program,” observes Kealy, who was the only adult featured in the student-centric videos.

“Twenty years from today, First Green will be the connection between golf and the youth of our country,” predicts Kealy.

Gullikson is just as enthusiastic. “I am excited to see the growth of First Green across the country and into Canada. It’s such a fun way to tell the story of golf and the environment to students, and a simple way to introduce the youth to golf courses.

“After I’ve hosted thousands of students over the years, the smiles and laughter from the kids never gets old,” adds Gullikson. “Over the next 20 years, I hope to see every golf course in the country making the effort to become the environmental learning lab within their community.”

Says Meyer: “It’s wonderful to see the seeds of an idea bloom into such a meaningful and fun program for students, teachers and superintendents. As First Green continues to grow and gain traction, support and scale, it will make an even bigger positive impact for the environmental, educational and golf communities in the next 20 years.”

“We are grateful for the continued and substantial support given to us by the USGA, GCSAA, state associations and local clubs,” adds Armstead. “We anticipate continued working relationships with these two major golf organizations and anticipate becoming better known to other organizations such as the Golf Course Owners Association, the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the PGA Tour and PGA of America.”

She also gives an approving nod to another U.S.-based grow-golf initiative, saying, “First Tee has done an excellent job of introducing kids to golf,” while observing the clear differences in the two organizations. “At First Green, superintendents host students and teachers on at their local golf course, turning the golf course into an environmental learning lab. Both programs, in different ways, assist in growing the game of golf.

“Currently, First Green has local programs across the United States and Canada, with interest now in Europe,” Armstead concludes. “My vision is that within 20 years, golf course superintendents will be hosting First Green programs in every community.”

For more information, visit www.thefirstgreen.org/.

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