First Tee of North Florida new learning center will provide kids the basic fundamentals of golf

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hundreds of local kids will have a new place to go after school. The First Tee of North Florida is building a new learning center in Jacksonville Beach. To show you why it’s so important, Action News Jax John Bachman introduced us to sixth grader Riley Powell.


Hitting golf ball after golf ball, 11-year-old Riley has learned that hard work pays off. It’s one of several life lessons she’s learned through golf. The sixth grader plays on her high school varsity team.

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“I love the competitiveness and I love there’s always room to improve.” she says.

Four years ago, Riley came home and told her parents she wanted to play golf. They don’t play. Once they got over the surprise request, they sent Riley to First Tee North Florida.

“First Tee does a great job of providing golf experiences to kids that are new to the game. We pride ourselves in showing the basic fundamentals of the game,” First Tee North Florida Programming Director Ron Castillo said. He adds, “We’re not going to provide the meal of golf -- but we do provide the appetizer we tee it up for the kids and give the taste of golf and send them home wanting more.”

Read: Win a round of a lifetime! Action News Jax teams up with Len Mattiace and the First Tee in #PlayDay

If golf is the appetizer at First Tee, life lessons are the meal.

“The meat and potatoes of First Tee is life skills. Golf is a great sport to create parallels to life,” Castillo says.

Riley agrees, “Golf is kind of like life in a way because you have to try new things and if it doesn’t work, you try something different.”

The First Tee North Florida is about to reach more kids like Riley. There are plans to build a learning center at Jacksonville Beach Golf Club. It will reach 500 kids with after school and summer camps. The Mayo Clinic has kick-started the fundraising campaign with a $30,000 gift.

Riley translates that into golf for us when Bachman asked her, “Do you like to drive for show or putt for dough?” She said, “Putt for dough.”

Riley is smart, and grateful. Grateful for the game, for learning centers, and for the people who help build them,

“It’s pretty amazing because if it wasn’t for First Tee I would probably never be in golf right now,” she said. Golf is a big part of my life.”

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If you would like to help local kids like Riley, you can join the #PlayDay campaign. To learn more and to donate, click here to visit the First Tee North Florida website.