January 30, 2017 - The year 2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of First Green. The innovative, environmental and STEM education outreach program, which uses golf courses as outdoor learning labs, started with local, humble beginnings but has since grown nationwide as well as internationally.
The Foundation has “spread the word” about itself by attending the annual Golf Industry Show, hosted by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. First Green seminars at GIS have trained dozens of superintendents from around the U.S. in hosting a field trip.
First Green, also featured on the GCSAA’s TurfNet TV as well as several national network affiliates, drew worldwide attention in 2015 and ‘16 when the USGA selected it for a Public Service Announcement during its golf championships on the FOX Network.
Training More First Green “Instructors” at the 2017 GIS
First Green will, once again, be on hand at GIS to introduce the program and help golf course superintendents host their own field trips. The number of sign-ups this year is very encouraging. GIS will be held Feb. 4-9 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The Foundation will conduct an eight-hour seminar that involves bringing together superintendents and local students to a nearby golf course to conduct science experiments.
The very thorough seminar has received high evaluations from participants. It’s taught by First Green co-founder, Jeff Gullikson, Secretary/Treasurer Steve Kealy (both Certified Golf Course Superintendents and national GCSAA environmental award winners), Executive Director Karen Armstead, Communications Director Cathy Relyea and Education Director Lynn McKay.
In addition to GIS, First Green has made numerous appearances at various golf-industry expos, both in the U.S. and Canada. The First Green team is frequently assisted in these educational programs by GCSAA regional field representatives as part of the professional development programs for golf course superintendents.
A First Green field trip is educational and enjoyable for all involved. After hosting what would become the first of his annual First Green field trips in 2013, Frank Tichenor, the longtime superintendent at Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield, N.J., exclaimed, “The First Green field trip was one of the best days I’ve ever spent on the golf course.”
Kudos from a Range of Participants
First Green has received widespread praise from not only golf course superintendents like Tichenor but many students, parents, school teachers and golf-industry officials. Here’s a sampling:
“I have personally witnessed what a First Green program can bring to our youth, from teaching them the benefits that a golf course can bring to a community, to demonstrating that golf courses can be a place where environmental stewardship is practiced and protected.” - Rhett Evans, CEO of GCSAA
“The goal of the Chevron-USGA partnership and our Eagles for Education funding is to make STEM more fun and engaging through the game of golf. First Green’s educational and environmental outreach programs on the golf course have shown tremendous success supporting this objective, for which we are extremely grateful.” - Dr. Kimberly S. Erusha, Managing Director of the USGA Green Section
“In 50 years, we might well look back and see that First Green was one of the best ‘growing-the-game’ initiatives that golf has ever done.” - Kris Jonasson, Executive Director, British Columbia Golf
“First Green takes advantage of what the superintendent already knows. The majority of superintendents across the country possess science degrees from two- and four-year universities and the principles of STEM come very naturally to them. When it’s part of the superintendent’s everyday life, it’s simple for them to discuss with the kids.” - David Phipps, GCSAA Northwest Region Field Staff Representative
“The field trip is tailor-made to fit with the Science, Technology and Concepts curriculum on soils. First Green activities really engage the students and give them a chance to explore Earth's materials and also what might be living there.” - Teacher Margaret Portelance
“I thought the field trip was well-organized and executed. It was very helpful to me to be able to observe a live field trip. I thought the labs and instructors were great. I left very excited to host a field trip at our club.” - Greg Cormier, CGCS and Director of Golf Course Operations for Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, Mass.
“I have had the honor of working with one of the great golf associations in the world for the past 32 years. In that time many programs have been started, but none hits the target of reaching out into the non-golf community better than First Green.” - Larry Gilhuly, USGA Agronomist for the West Region
“The WSGA has been a proud supporter of First Green since its inception 20 years ago. First Green is growing the game of golf in a very unique way by introducing kids to the many environmental benefits of a golf course. And for many of these kids that attend the field trips, it’s the first time they have ever stepped foot on a golf course. One field trip might equal a new member to the golf community!” - Troy Andrew, CEO & Executive Director of Pacific Northwest and Washington State golf associations
"The First Green seminar I attended at this year's Golf Industry Show gave me all the information I need to get started with this important outreach program. I am very excited to get out of the golf ‘bubble’ and begin telling our story to kids in the community!" - Jon Lobenstine, Director of Agronomy for nine Montgomery County (Md.) golf courses
“I asked the kids how many had ever held a golf club before. Many of them hadn’t played golf. The students were able to practice and solve real-world problems on the field trip. The math and science connection made the experience more relevant.” Teacher Robyn Higginson
“As stewards of their own piece of the environment, First Green gives superintendents a chance to share their tremendous and diverse knowledge with youngsters who enjoy this learning opportunity outside the traditional classroom.” - Paul Ramsdell, Executive Director of the Western Washington Golf Course Superintendents Association
“Golf courses are a perfect fit for STEM learning. Students are taught about soil, ecosystems, wildlife habitat, surface and ground water, storm and sewer water management and a host of environmental benefits golf courses can provide.” - Trevor Smith, Past President of the (British Columbia) Allied Golf Association
“First Green is the most impressive thing I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been coming to the International Association of Golf Administrators’ meetings.” Michael Moraghan, Executive Director of Connecticut State Golf Association
“The combination of science, decision-making, and hard work immediately attracted me to the golf industry and instilled my desire to pursue a Turfgrass Management Bachelor’s Degree at Washington State University. Since making that decision, I have only grown more appreciative of golf and the management of the facilities at which it is played, making me feel as if I want to spend my future in the turfgrass industry.” - Matt Carstens, First Green Scholar and 2012 WSU Graduate
Two 6th Graders after a First Green Field Trip:
“We got to learn how golf courses worked and how they were maintained. I also think it was fun to learn about all the gadgets that help maintain the greens.” - Elsa
“We learned about microorganisms and things in the water, like dragon flies and bugs, and we caught some of them. We learned how to take care of a green on a golf course. It wasn’t boring. We got to come and play golf.” - Rogan