After nearly 15 years, relationship between Boeing Classic and The First Tee is still going strong
By Aaron Lommers
Special to The First Tee
There are not many better ways to get kids interested in sports than giving them role models to look up to that provide a positive example both in and out of the realm of competition.
When the Boeing Classic, a PGA Champion’s Tour event, started at The Club at Snoqualmie Ridge in 2005, they immediately formed a relationship with The First Tee of Greater Seattle that has allowed young golfers an opportunity to meet and learn from the pros. In addition, a fund-raising event held the Monday after the tournament concludes has helped The First Tee to raise nearly $1.5 million since the tournament began.
“It’s a hugely generous gift that the Boeing Classic gave to youth golf, and our community. Former The First Tee executive director Heidi Wills said. “Since (the beginning), the Boeing Classic has truly embraced The First Tee of Greater Seattle, not just by gifting the golf course the day after the final round…but in addition to that, the Boeing Classic offered The First Tee the opportunity to bring youth from the program up to the course and get to have a clinic with one of the pros from the tour.”
This year’s events surrounding the tournament and the tournament itself will be held August 20-26.
The youth clinic is held the Tuesday prior to the tournament at Snoqualmie Ridge and is led by one or two of the tour professionals. In the past, golfers such as Peter Jacobsen, Tom Kite and Fred Couples have led the clinic.
For the kids, the clinic, which usually includes about 200 children, is often the highlight of the week and when The First Tee surveys its members at the end of the year, is often mentioned as one of the most memorable events of the year.
“I think that professional golfers can be someone for kids to look up to,” The First Tee program director Evan Johnsen said. “Being able to see them first-hand, how they play and how they conduct themselves and hopefully how much fun they’re having, does make a difference for kids. If they play golf and never get to see that, I don’t know if they have quite as much to reach for or an idea of how they set their own goals and dreams. So, I think it’s crucial for kids to be able to have that exposure to professional golfers.”
There are various other events throughout the week, including family day, which is held the Saturday during the tournament. Kids get a chance to watch the tournament as well as participate in several hands-on activities on that day.
After the tournament concludes on Sunday, the Boeing Classic has gifted the course to The First Tee for their annual Swing for Kids fundraiser.
“We want to provide as many opportunities for kids and fans as we can throughout the week,” Johnsen said. “Because it’s the only golf tournament that occurs in our area annually, and since 2005, it’s the best venue for kids to go watch professional golf and experience some of the fun events that go with a big tournament like that.
“By the end of the week, kids and families from the program are pretty jazzed about golf, and about playing and watching more golf,” Johnsen added. “It’s nice to see that momentum.”
While the partnership provides a clear benefit for The First Tee, the Boeing Classic is also providing young golfers an opportunity to continue to grow the game and dream big.
“It’s a huge Champion’s Tour event with some of the best golfers in the world, but they were once kids and learning how to play golf at a very young age,” said Swing for Kids event director Shelby Lanting. “For the Boeing Classic to be able to support The First Tee is kind of a full-circle experience.
“The generosity of the Boeing Classic has been so much appreciated by The First Tee,” Lanting added. “I think it’s given the kids in the program something to aspire to.”