First Hand First Tee Experience
James Morton is the superintendent at the First Tee of Atlanta at the John A. White Park golf course in Atlanta, GA. He is also the GCSAA liaison for Georgia GCSA.
He first heard about the First Tee while working with American Golf as an assistant superintendent in Fayetteville, Georgia. When they signed a contract with The First Tee the company asked him to be the head superintendent. After looking over the facility James saw the potential of the course and accepted the position. At that time, the course was due to open in approximately six weeks. Once the facility opened he realized how The First Tee program worked and the impact the program could have on the children of Atlanta.
Aside from being the head superintendent, James is charged with providing the children a place to practice and play that is as close to a country club type atmosphere as possible so when they get the opportunity to play in tournaments at high end courses they don’t feel overwhelmed or out of place.
James began working with youth 4 years ago as an assistant Cub Scout leader. He is currently on the committee of the same troop. Occasionally he takes the boys out to a local golf course and instructs them on the basics of the golf swing and a few rules. This enables the boys to earn scout awards. He is also involved with the facility’s 8 week summer camp with an enrollment of 150 kids. At the beginning of camp he instructs the participants on the importance of proper etiquette and how to take care of the course. James developed an award that one child receives at the end of camp called “The Care of the Course Award.” He selects the winner based on observation. The winner receives a plaque to take home and their name engraved on a cup that stays in the trophy case at the clubhouse.
This year The First Tee of Atlanta will implement a training module called Plants and Trees that will teach the kids about the different types of vegetation being grown on the course. At the end of the module the students will get the opportunity to plant a tree on the course designated for the year they participated at the summer camp.
James feels that giving children who have never had the opportunity or a place to play and practice the game of golf is most rewarding.
Professionally, having a wonderful board of directors has given him the chance to expand the golf course as he sees fit. He is responsible for the business and agronomic side of the course operations. This has allowed him to build new tees, bunkers, and construct an experimental green that is also used as a nursery if the need arises. James has been given the opportunity to further his education through correspondence courses and seminars.
James advises anyone interested in getting involved with The First Tee to look closely at the program before deciding to take on the site. First Tee facilities are non-profit organizations and in most cases funds are limited. He says, “It takes a person who can look at different ways to accomplish the job, but to keep in mind what you are working towards and that’s to change the life of a child and change the life of the future.”